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Making a Holiday Wreath? Avoid the 'killer vine' Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet, identified by its YELLOW capsules around the berries.
Photo: Mn Dept of Agriculture
It's the time of year when crafty folks are using greenery and plants from their own yard to make their own holiday wreaths. But here's an attractive plant you'll not only want to avoid, but make quick work to get rid of ASAP--called the "killer vine," the "Boa constrictor" of Minnesota plants, it's Oriental bittersweet (Celatrus orbiculatus).

Once again, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has pronounced Oriental bittersweet its November "Weed of the Month," and for good reason.  This invasive plant has caused property damage and altered ecosystems with its prolific seed production and aggressive growth.

Is this killer vine in my backyard?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reports it was confirmed in the Twin Cities metropolitan area in 2010, and since then has been found in multiple counties.

A particularly severe  infestation was discovered in Red Wing and Winona in Southeastern Minnesota.  UMN Extension and Conservation Corps Minnesota have coordinated efforts to educate property owners and help attack the problem neighborhood by neighborhood.

Remove with care!

Don't compost it, don't use it--because birds can eat the berries and spread it around your landscape! It strangles trees with its heavy vines--in fact, experts recommend not even to pull down the vine because the vines are so heavy, they could injure a person standing below.
One of these is NOT like the other! Careful ID of the good
American bittersweet vs. the Oriental bittersweet is key.

So how do I identify it?

Concentrate on the capsule ("leaves" around the berries) and note whether they are YELLOW or ORANGE.  This marks the difference between American bittersweet (a good vine) compared to Oriental bittersweet (a bad invasive weed). You should also look at how the berries hang from the branches--are they only at the branch end (good bittersweet)?  Learn more about how to identify it, and how to get rid of it in the two videos below.


A video to help crafters in particular identify Oriental bittersweet...



Got some in your yard? Report it!

The species was listed on the Minnesota Noxious Weed List Prohibited-Eradicate category in 2011. If you find it in your landscape, there are several ways to report it:

  • Call Arrest the Pest (you will be asked to leave a message): 1-888-545-6684
  • Email a report with a GPS or street location and a photo to Arrest the Pest.
  • Report online via an online form

Read more about this aggressive, invasive plant at: https://extension.umn.edu/highlights/oriental-bittersweet-crafty-invader

Author: Gail Hudson, Horticulture Communication Specialist


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