Name: Oriental bittersweet – aka Celastrus orbiculatus aka Chinese bittersweet or round-leaf bittersweet
Type of Plant: A vine that has round or oval leaves and orange roots. This plant was brought to this country in the 1800’s as an ornamental vine because it has pretty orange and red berries in the fall. But it’s become invasive in most of North America.
Why I Love/Hate this plant: This is one of the plants that make up what I call the “Cape Cod jungle.” Birds eat the seeds and then poop them far and wide. Look under trees and shrubs in most Cape landscapes and you’ll find small bittersweet vines…maybe even large ones. The vines twine around stems and trunks of trees and can kill those plants. They also scramble over the tops of desirable plants, forming a canopy so thick that the support plant dies from lack of sunshine.
A Word to the Wise: No, picking the berries for fall decorating doesn’t help spread this invasive plant…if anything, any berry you can prevent a bird from eating is a seed that won’t get planted. So feel free to cut these vines either for fall décor or to use the twined stems on wreaths at this time of year.
But be on the lookout for young bittersweet plants under your trees and shrubs, as well as in your gardens. Go on “bittersweet patrol” at least once a month and pull them up or cut larger ones off at ground level. (Yes, it will come back from the roots. But if you assiduously chopping it off, which for larger plants is faster and easier than pulling or digging, you’ll eventually starve the root system.) May The Force be with you!