cutting down bittersweet?

FroofyCat(5)May 6, 2012

Last year at this time, i cut a huge bittersweet vine at the base and as high up in the tree as I could reach. It seemed successful in the sense the vines up in the tree were dead and I'd cut and shoots that sprang up from the root system for the rest of the summer. I was checking out the stump of the vine today and yes, lots of shoots coming up again this year, but I figure I will just keep on top of cutting them.

I just did it again to another tree, it's small maple and I think it would come down this year under the weight of the vine if I didn't do it.

I want to do it to yet another tree - a huge, lovely oak that luckily dwarfs the vine trying to climb it (for now).

I also ventured into the woods a bit an cut some others. The average diameter of these vines is an inch - some larger! So these vines have been there for a long time. I think my lopers say 1 3/4" and it was hard to get through some.

Does anyone know if this is good or bad to do? I recall reading a blog or post somewhere where a guy said he did this regularly and considered himself a steward of his little corner of woods.

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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Froofy, I regularly cut, spray, pull, and burn oriental bittersweet. Absolutely it is a good thing to do! This is one of the worst woody invasives in our area, and is very damaging to trees.

For large vines, I cut them at the base and then again at about shoulder height. This is so that you can tell which vines have been cut, also to remove avenues for future vines to climb up. To avoid resprouting of the stumps that you've observed, I use a squeeze bottle with brush/stump killer and quickly apply a small amount to the cut stump. I let the vines die and decay in the trees, and after a few years you can pull them down.

For patches of bittersweet that are like thickets, a light spray of Brush-b-gone at the recommended dosage works very well (follow instructions).

Sometimes I carry my folding saw and cut big vines when out hiking around. I also cut the bittersweet from the neighbor's yard (with his permission), and recently cleared some out from the big Oak tree across the street.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 1:30AM
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shoot, I forgot to do the stumps yesterday as I cut. I did last year and new shoots were still coming up from the vine before the cut stump edge I treated and I think they come up from roots close to the surface. I guess that stuff is strong,

But to be honest, I used Brush B Gone on some knotweed yesterday and I feel like that was enough chemicals for now.

But I am having some trees and brush cut down this week - some are little maples, so maybe i should put BrushBGone on it because I know I'll have all of those sprouts coming back.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 6:43AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Glad to hear you have experience with bittersweet Terrene, I could use some advise. We have a neighbor with a yard full of bittersweet, Poison Ivy and Maple seedlings and I finally figured out that I had some of the bittersweet coming up in my front foundation. I don't know how long it went unnoticed in a large patch of Itea and another in a patch of Spirea. I cut it back at ground level and left it in the middle of the shrub last year. It had just started to climb the front of our house, that is how I noticed it. It was up to the gutter. I thought it would probably come back and haven't checked this year.

I'm wondering can I dig them out and get all the roots out? I don't use any kind of herbicide, so I was hoping I could. I was thinking I will probably have to dig up and dispose of the whole Itea and Spirea patches. Yes or no?

Our neighbor is just oblivious. They seem to have cleared some of it around their house, but they keep leaving a lot of it growing along our lot line on the other side of a stockade fence and it keeps coming over. I have poison ivy vine this spring, climbing up to the top of the stockade fence in four spots despite having cut it all back last year. We have talked to them and gone over to help them cut it back a couple of times, but we just can't go dig it all out for them and we aren't holding our breath that they will.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 7:37AM
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i have bits of bittersweet popping up through foundation plantings and in beds too. I know some is spread by seeds/birds, but I find some is sprouting up through the vast root system. One area of my yard by a fence had bittersweet intertwined with trumpet vine (arguably a little less invasive?) and I have been able to grab hold of shoots and pull at roots, or grab roots visible at the surface, and huge webs of roots will come up through the grass - effectively ruining the turf, but I'm ok with that in this area. I just tamp down the dirt after pulling up roots and it looks ok and the grass fills in slowly.

This pulling method seems to be pretty good for the small sprigs I find invading beds. I don't know if it'd be possible on a huge vine unless I dug with a back hoe!

I had a tiny bit of poison ivy last spring (we'd just moved in) and a bit more this spring I noticed. It's a ground creeper or individual plants here. I left it alone this spring since it was far enough in the woods. Last year I did a little spritzing with tryclopyr - which is in BrushBGone and WeedBGone and the poison ivy killers.

I'm not a fan of chemicals, but have decided the tryclopyr was worth the risk to get rid of the knotweed. But I find the digging is effective on that too. Last year I dug out HUGE clumps that had grown taller than me and this year just a few springs grew back in it's place and they were only a foot tall when I dug them up yesterday.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 11:47AM
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I've eradicated tons of bittersweet on my property. The root system is massive. I cut down the huge stems - some upward of 3" diameter - but the roots run forever. I've seen bittersweet sprouting 50' away - and when I try to pull it, it is attached to a massive root system. So I know it isn't a new plant dropped by a bird.

As I walk around my property planting, shovel in hand, any time I see some sprouting up, I just plunk my shovel into the ground and break the new sprout off. Then I jam the shovel in the ground a few more times to break up the roots. I've had good success with this method to help keep it all under control.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 12:15PM
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terrene(5b MA)

PM2, I think you've done the right thing by cutting the bittersweet at the base of your shrubbery (or trees) and letting it die. For small trees or shrubs, I have pulled and untwisted the vines from the branches, but with large trees I just let the vines decay enough so they can be pulled down (that takes a few years).

I use the herbicide to increase the odds that it will kill the root system as well, so there won't be any resprouting. This is a VERY small and targeted application of the herbicide. However, if you are against pesticides, continually cutting the shoots will work as well.

I've been an organic gardener for years, and only use occasional organic pest control in the gardens (such as BT or copper sulfate fungicide). But with these invasive plants, it became apparent that control is very difficult without the assistance of herbicides. Last year, since I wasn't getting ahead of the infestations in back, I broke down and tried a Brush-b-gone solution at the recommended dosage on the bushy bittersweet, or thicket areas, and it worked extremely well. It takes weeks, but the plants and roots died back and they became very easy to pull. I also use the Brush-b-gone on Buckthorn, although it has more tenancious root system. Herbicide should be sprayed on a calm, dry, and warm day - thus it dries quickly, and there is little overspray, which minimizes contact with other plants or wildlife.

If it were me PM2, and your neighbors are amenable, I would be over there getting rid of that bittersweet myself (but I'm a bit obsessive about it)! Pixie-lou, I will have to try your shovel method too.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 11:19AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks FroffyCat and pixielou, sorry you have so much experience on the subject. It does sound like you are managing to keep it somewhat under control, which is encouraging.

terrene, so maybe there's a chance that cutting it back to the ground and then again if it resprouts, might kill it? Mine are in short shrubs and not up high, so I should be able to untangle them fine. They are in an area that we've planned to do over anyway, so my only concern is to kill them off so I can replant that area. I plan to make sure they are dead and dealt with before replanting.

Our neighbors have a huge vine of Bittersweet climbing a chain link fence on the street side of their property. They are using it as a privacy screen. *sigh*. So I don't believe they would be agreeable to getting rid of it.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 3:26PM
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singleton165(z5 NH Seacoast)

About 10 years ago I mistakenly let this vine climb over a fence, all because it cascaded over it beautifully. I plan on eradicating it this year since it's gotten so out of hand. I've been cutting it back for years, but it's time to get serious with it!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 7:55AM
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When my neighbor said I could garden her yard, I didn't know it was riven through with bittersweet, Japanese knotweed and forsythia that will never bloom. A month later after covering half of the razed lot with old sheets and thick cardboard, I'm hoping the earthworms will finish the job. Like all independent contractors, they said they "..can handle it immediately and it will take awhile. " I'm hoping that cutting off light and water will weaken the evil ones enough for the earth-makers to devour. The worms, and the fact that I can just forget about it as gets covered with leaves (of course it's a shady lot) and forms new soil, is what makes cardboard and sheets better than tarp. The heaviness, and the fact that its free make it better than gardening paper. Cardboard takes such a long time to decompose it makes fabulous mulch. I'd love other people's opinion on this method. The only drawback is that it will leave a lot of tape, and it takes awhile for the worms to do their work. Calling them doesn't help, they won't call back.

Here is a link that might be useful: hints on invasives from the NE Wildflower S.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:25AM
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