Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is recognizable by its yellow capsules and red fruit, scattered among its twigs, plus its thick, heavy mother vines. Hailing from the Asian continent, this plant has successfully grown here in the Northeast because of a lack of natural predators. As a result, it smothers and kills trees and shrubbery.
Winter is the easiest time to spot and cut this plant down. The mother vines are thick. You can see it here, snaking around the trunk of a maple.
Though it doesn’t need to wrap itself around the trunk to get up into the branches.
My favorite way to get rid of these is to take a handsaw and cut them above eye level – so you can see that you’ve already done this vine – and then again at the ground level. Thinner vines will usually grow around the mother vine. Cut these, too. I caution against trying to pull the vines out of the trees once you’ve made the cuts. You’re more likely to damage the tree branches! Let the vine die and wither away, instead.
There is an American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), but its impact on trees is much smaller. If you spot American bittersweet, you can let it grow!
For more information on identifying oriental bittersweet, take a look at this:
Help save our trees and our shrubs by taking out this invader. It’s an excellent winter workout too!