A Bittersweet Moment…

December 10, 2012 1 Comment

‘Tis the season to decorate, but you might want to be careful what you are decorating with.

Oriental Bittersweet is a woody vine that has bright red berries and is perfect for Christmas decorations.

The problem is, the seeds on the vines are viable, meaning they will grow if they hit the dirt… well, they have to get IN the dirt and get the appropriate amounts of water and sunlight, but you get the idea.

—-Oriental bittersweet:

While that in itself is not necessarily a problem, the fact that the vine is very aggressive, is.  The vine is native to Asia and it climbs trees, slowing the growth or killing the them by blocking the light from the forest canopy.

There is an American bittersweet, which is native to Iowa.


Just looking at the pictures, they seem the same to me.  You can tell the difference by checking the fruit location on the vine.


American bittersweet only has fruit at the tip of the stem whereas Oriental bittersweet has fruit and flowers along the length of the stem.    The Minnesota Department of Ag has some more information here.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources also has a page you can visit, and goes into a little more detail.  You can check it out by clicking here.


Whether you have the invasive or the native variety of bittersweet, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice and any other celebrations that occur when the Sun is in the Southern Hemisphere!


Dig it!


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  1. Mike Weinard says:

    Eileen, I remember this stuff–probably the native variety. In the early 1960s Grandma used to take me along when she went out in the fall & cut some for displays. I actually continued doing that for years but we had to discontinue as we had no safe place to display the bittersweet in the house because of the cats.

    For 40 years or more, I used to find the bittersweet along country roads going to Sugar Bottom or the Coralville Reservoir East Overlook. However, I think road construction and spraying from got the best of it all.

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