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Marion Larson

Marion Larson

Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife

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Anna Waclawiczek

Anna Waclawiczek

Chief of Staff, Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR)

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Invasive Plant: Asiatic Bittersweet

It’s that time of year when many people are using plants to decorate their houses or businesses. Pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks are already “sprouting” on doorsteps and porches! Though these decorations are very attractive, as representatives of MassWildlife and the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), we highly recommend that people avoid using invasive plants such as Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) in holiday decorations. Birds eat and carry away the fruits of these plants from wreaths and garlands and the digested but still-viable seeds can sprout wherever they are deposited. Exotic, invasive plants create severe environmental damage, invading open fields, forests, wetlands, meadows, and backyards, and crowding out native plants. Bittersweet vines can even kill mature trees by strangling them. Both Oriental bittersweet and multiflora rose are extremely difficult to control; when cut, the remaining plants will re-sprout. Due to their invasiveness, both plants are on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List, making them illegal to import or sell in any form, as whole plants or as cuttings in decorations.

Homeowners, nursery staff, landscapers and conservationists can learn more about invasive plants from A Guide To Invasive Plants in Massachusetts. In the guide, each invasive plant description includes a photograph, the plant’s regulatory status, key identification characteristics, habitats where the plant is likely to be found, type of threat the plant poses to native species and habitats, and its current distribution and place of origin. Similar plant species are also briefly described to aid in plant identification. The guide includes definitions of three categories of invasiveness, brief explanations of how invasive plants are introduced and spread, why invasives are a problem and how to learn more about controlling invasive plants. DAR regulations regarding invasive plant importation, sale and propagation are also included.

The guide is $5 a copy and may be purchased from MassWildlife by stopping in at the Westborough office during business hours or by sending a request to “Invasive Plant Guide,” MassWildlife Field HQ, NHESP, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd, Westborough, MA, 01581, and include a check payable to: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts-NHESP. Sorry, but MassWildlife doesn’t accept credit cards for purchases of publications.

For online information about invasive plants, check out the following sites.

New England Wild Flower Society invasive plants information and photo gallery.

Interactive invasive species map by the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England.

New England Wild Flower Society invasive plant information.

DAR prohibited plants list.

MassWildlife invasive species information.

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