Oriental bittersweet was introduced as an ornamental plant in the 19th century; it is still a popular ornamental but it kills other plants by growing over them – much like kudzu . It has invaded natural habitats in the eastern United States and can be found in the mountains and in the Piedmont of North Carolina. It occurs primarily in open habitats, like fields, disturbed forests, forest edges, and roadsides. Birds disperse its seeds long distances and it spreads through rhizomes.
Oriental bittersweet is a woody vine that can grow up 60’. Its glossy leaves (2 – 5” long) are rounded and finely serrated; they grow alternately along the stem and they turn yellow in the fall. Small pale green flowers bloom in spring and early summer. Later in the summer, yellow fruits ripen in clusters all along the stem, where the leaves meet the stem. During the winter the fruits split to reveal red orange berries.
Fact Sheets: Oriental Bittersweet - Plant Conservation Alliance, Oriental Bittersweet - EDRR
Jennifer Rhode Ward, H. David Clarke, and Jonathan Horton - Relative Efficacy of Chemical, Mechanical, and Combination Treatments for Oriental Bittersweet Removal.
Photo credits (left to right): James R. Allison, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org; Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org; Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
Photo Credit: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University