questions about american bittersweet

dirtgirl(So. Illinois)February 7, 2006

While cycling recently I noticed something brilliantly orange standing out against a small cedar tree and when I turned around and went back to have a better look I realized it was bittersweet. I know the rule of thumb is to see where the berries are ...along the branch or out at the ends of the branch, but I couldn't remember which is which. I broke off a small twig and brought it home, where I was pleased to learn that this is not the invasive asian variety.

Now I have this branch with berries on it, know that it is a very attractive plant and a NATIVE to boot, and I am wondering: would this be a wise addition to my woodlands, and if so, is it easy to cultivate from just a handful of the berries?

I am also curious as to how the vine got there in that cedar to begin with. Surely birds dropped off a few odd seeds. But maybe there is more growing somewhere close, or perhaps in a backyard.

It sure isn't a common sight here, in any case.

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keilamarie(z5 Mass)


These are very strong vines at maturity so they can do some damage to your trees if you are planting them in the woods. If you give it something to climb on I don't see why not. Here is something to think about though...the birds really don't care if it is oriental or american bittersweet, they will eat both so you might get some of the invasive kind just by birds eating at more than one location (and leaving presents*).
Hubby and I used to craft furniture out of the invasive kind (to help erraicate it) so you can imagine how big they can get!

It s a lovely vine though! It might have ended up in the location you saw either by bird or by people who buy branches of the stuff for decoration and toss them out in the woods after.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 8:01AM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

I know of several people here in our area of the state that also use honeysuckle and others in their basketweaving as a means of keeping at least a bit of it in check.
I have always thought it would be neat to learn how to make textiles and baskets and so on from such natural sources, but I do good to sew a button on in a relatively neat manner.
One year though, I did make bracelets and necklaces out of hemp dogbane as stocking stuffers. I use a "tailor's twist" to make them and it is absolutely amazing, how tough and resilient they are. In the fall when we are finishing up the farming, I gather bunches of the drying stalks and peel the outer fibers off while I am waiting for my husband to load the grain truck. Then if I get into a long line at the elevator I simply grab a handful of these fibers and whip up a bracelet or a necklace if I have time. I have a small one on my left wrist from over 5 months ago that is not in the least bit frazzled, and it stays on 24 hrs a day. Course, my mother, who is tirelessly hoping that her tomboy daughter will someday learn to refine her ways, is constantly admonishing me to "get the weeds off my arm"...

I did read a bit about bittersweet from several other sources and they too mentioned the fact that the vine has the ability to girdle trees with its tightly clinging branches, not to mention that when mature, a good sized vine has enough weight to eventually weaken and bring down parts of the canopy of the tree it's in. I already have grape vines the size of my arm growing here, and in some of the young trees you can really tell they become a burden. I have to think that they are a natural part of the forest, but that since so few of today's woods are made of large mature trees they have a more detrimental effect. And maybe they get more sunlight in which to thrive since many forestlands are fragmented?
More theories from one doesn't really know the answers...:)_

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 12:51PM
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keilamarie(z5 Mass)

Ohh...I would love to see some of what you describe! I absolutely love making things out of natural materials. We are out of business now (expecting a baby) so I can show you a bench we made without it being an ad, lol. I have made all sorts of stuff with these beauties. Well, we love them but the homeowners we rescue them from don't care much for them.

Anyway, here's a pic of mine, when you get a chance show off your stuff! :)

ohh...and here's a bird bath I made, these are both sold of course but you can get creative grab some screws and have fun! I have not worked with grape vine yet but want to!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 3:11PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Gosh it's huge! I had no idea it got that big. Of course, not many people are aware of how large poison ivy can get either. Maybe you are right to caution me on the consequences of getting it started here.
Your pictures bring to mind the sassafras and sumac thickets that were once here. The honeysuckle had grown so thickly around all the trunks that I ended up with a huge patch of spiraly walking sticks. Matter of fact that's what became of many of the best ones...I peeled them and rubbed them smooth and gave them as gifts. Now that I am working to reduce the honeysuckle through clearing and controlled burning, the thickets are resprouted again and it will be a few more years before they have any size on them.
LOVE the birdbath!!! Will have to try that one.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 7:29PM
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