invasive species · leaves · Nature Academy of the Berkshires · plants

Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental Bittersweet berries

Now that the leaves are falling from the trees you will start seeing patches of pretty yellow and orange berries climbing the sides of trees. These are the berries of Oriental Bittersweet, scientific name, Celastrus orbiculatus. These beauties are invasive being introduced in the 1860’s from Eastern Asia, Korea, China and Japan. The plant is considered an ornamental in gardening.

But because it is not native it grows OUT OF CONTROL. It can take down shrubs and trees. And I mean literally “take down” as in strangle the tree and cause it to die and fall. You can see this happening is many places in Berkshire county along the roads. This plant likes disturbed soil, so it can grow along the road side, in your driveway, along your porch, all of the parks and state forests have this vine invading the native habitat.

Oriental Bittersweet vines strangling a tree

What can you do?

  • Don’t gather the berries and make a wreath or decorations for your home.
  • Don’t buy it (yes it is still available in garden centers).
  • DO buy native American Bittersweet that has rounder leaves and will not destroy local habitat.
  • DO tell your friends and family that this plant is bad for Berkshire County.
  • DO dig it up if you have some in your yard, although it comes back year after year and you have to keep digging it up.