Holiday Wreath Making? Skip the Bittersweet. It's Invasive and Illegal.

It's been a staple of hand crafted wreathes, but it's an invasive plant and selling or moving it are prohibited by state law. If you see bittersweet for sale in Connecticut, the DEEP wants to hear from you.

Bittersweet vines along I-95 in Norwalk. Credit: Ella Dawson
Bittersweet vines along I-95 in Norwalk. Credit: Ella Dawson

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) has sometimes been used in holiday decorations, including wreaths.

Unfortunately, Oriental bittersweet is a highly invasive woody vine that can wrap around trees, damaging and sometimes killing them.

The extra weight from Oriental bittersweet on limbs can also cause limb drop, contributing to damage and power outages.

Use of the vines in decorations helps spread seeds of the plant to new locations. Additionally, improper disposal of the decorations, either outdoors or in compost after the holiday season, can contribute to the spread of bittersweet.

“There are many alternatives to invasive plants that may be used for holiday decorations” said Logan Senack, Invasive Plant Coordinator for Connecticut in a release. “Often, local florist and greenhouse growers are able to provide attractive and interesting alternatives to bittersweet and other invasives. These include native plants that are not invasive, such as winterberry holly. Selling or moving Oriental bittersweet is also prohibited by state law.”

The law, which went into effect in 2004, prohibits the moving, selling, purchasing, transplanting, cultivating or distributing of 80 invasive plant species, including Oriental bittersweet, in Connecticut. This prohibition extends to seeds, flowers, and other reproductive portions of the plants.  Fines for violations of the law are listed at $50 per plant.

Individuals who find invasive plants such as bittersweet for sale in Connecticut are asked to contact the DEEP or the Connecticut Invasive Plant Coordinator at 860-208-3900 (email: logan.senack@ct.gov). For more information about Oriental bittersweet and other invasive plants in Connecticut, visit www.cipwg.uconn.edu.

Lorna December 02, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Thanks for bringing this to the public's attention. Oriental bittersweet is a curse upon our landscape, strangling native trees and shrubs. It's ideal to try to pull up seedlings and vines in the spring, as the plant grows remarkably quickly. When you remove it, wear gloves since the sap can be a skin irritant.


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