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Invasive, Exotic Plants of the Southeast


Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental Bittersweet

Common Name: Oriental Bittersweet

Scientific Name: Celastrus orbiculatus

Identification: Oriental Bittersweet is a deciduous woody vine that may climb 60 feet into tree crowns.  The leaves are alternate with round or tapered tips.  The olive drab vine may reach a thickness of 4 inches in diameter.  Inconspicuous orange-yellow flowers appear in May.  Clusters of small capsules containing 3 fleshy scarlet sections each with 2 white seeds mature from August to January.

Ecology: Oriental Bittersweet occurs primarily along forest edges, roadsides, and meadows.  This invasive vine is shade intolerant and colonizes by prolific vine growth and seeds that are spread by birds, mammals, and people.  It was introduced from Southeast Asia around 1860 as an ornamental vine.

Plant Control:Bittersweet can be difficult to control.  Cutting or pulling alone does not work because cutting stimulates the vine to re-sprout ten-fold and any broken off piece of root will re-grow. In the home landscape it is probably best to cut the vines back to the ground and immediately treat the cut stem with herbicide.  You can try using undiluted glyphosate concentrate (53.8% preferable) but if that does not keep the vine from re-sprouting then you may have to resort to a triclopyr-based product.  To avoid having to purchase a large quantity of a triclopyr concentrate such as Garlon, you may want to buy a pint or quart container of Brush-B-Gon Poison Ivy Killer at the hardware or home supply warehouse. Check the label and make sure you get the 8% triclopyr concentrate rather than the ready-to-use spray.  Dab the undiluted concentrate on the freshly cut stems.  Collect and bag vines with fruit. Monitor for new seedlings and control as needed. Note that very small seedlings can be hand-pulled but larger vines over a few inches tall will probably break off when pulled up and any root pieces left in the ground will re-grow.
Alternative Native Species: Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Supplejack (Berchemia scandens), Strawberrybush (Euonymus americana)

When using herbicides remember to follow label-recommendations.  Any mention of trade, products, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University.

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