You are either going to love bittersweet vines or hate them. You will love them because when they grow and spread all over, especially during the fall season, they appear to be one of the most beautiful sights you can witness. But the beauty carries the beastly intentions. Once grown in huge quantities, it becomes a threat to other plants. It virtually kills every other plant outgrowth in its territory and is also very difficult to get rid of. Despite its damaging effects on other plants, some people keep it in their garden. But they potentially kill all the chances of growth of any other plants. Other gardeners who wish to grow different plants have to get rid of bittersweet vines.
If you are the second type of gardener who wishes to get rid of the unwanted vines you need to identify the different types of vines. There are some innocuous vines too friendly with the other plant life forms in your garden. There are primarily two types of bittersweet vines. Both of them have orange and yellow berries and therefore look quite alike. The one which is not harmful is called ‘American Bittersweet’. It’s named so because of being indigenous to US. It is also named as ‘False Bittersweet’. The other one, which is potentially harmful to other plants falls in the ‘invasive exotics’ category. It is named as ‘Oriental Bittersweet.’ To tell one from the other you will have to check how the berries grow. The berries on the American Bittersweet grow only at the tips of the vine while Oriental Bittersweet has berries along the length of the vine.
Why Oriental Bittersweet vines grow faster than its rival?
- Having berries with brighter and more vibrant colors, these vines entice the birds more than the American Bittersweet vines. Since more birds are attracted towards these vines, they collect more seeds in their toes and wings and hence their seeds are spread more. This results in faster growth of these vines. Another factor that contributes to the faster growth is the number of berries. Since the berries grow along the length of the vines hence, there are more berries and hence it increases the chances of dispersion.
- The germination rate of these seeds is also higher and therefore they grow faster.
- Oriental Bittersweet vines photosynthesize better than its rival.
Methods to get rid of bittersweet vines
The question is how to get rid of the bittersweet vines. There are many ways available to get rid of these unwanted vines from your garden. However, it may require persistence and hard work. You can remove the berries manually, or you can kill them mechanically or use the chemical means to get rid of them. You may also combine two or more methods to get the most effective results. The method you choose depends primarily on the extent of the vine invasion in your garden, the amount of vegetation you need to protect, and the kind of time and efforts you can spare for it.
If the infestation is moderate and the vines have just started creeping up the trees you can first manually cut them and then apply the systemic herbicides to the cut area and the roots. It could be an effective method to get rid of the vines. However, if we are talking about a big invasion with infestation spanning across a huge area of the ground the above method may not be particularly effective. In this case you will need foliar herbicide instead of using the manual means.
It may not be possible to remove the bittersweet vines completely. If you try too hard, it may damage the plants that you want to keep. Even when it looks like complete removal, some of it still remains which starts growing again after a certain period of time. The idea is to substantially remove the existing outgrowth of the vines and then keep them contained.
Mechanical Control of the vines
If the infestation isn’t too extensive, the vines can be removed mechanically. Mechanical removing is the simple process of pulling the vines out using your hands. While pulling, you need to make sure that the plant is removed from the root. If the vines have climbed up the tree, cut them and let the upper part die down on its own. Pull out the remaining portion from its root. After this process, you may want to spray some herbicide on the ground to ensure that the vines do not grow again. While cutting the climbing vines make sure that you do not harm the tree by cutting its barks.
Chemical Treatment of the bittersweet vines
There are many systemic herbicides available which are externally applied to the plant. They are absorbed by the tissues and are transferred to the roots. These herbicides are capable of killing the plant within a week’s time. Some herbicides are soluble in water and can be highly toxic to aquatic animals like fishes. These herbicides should not be used with or near water. The chemical treatment is most effective when combined with mechanical treatment. The best results are observed when you mechanically cut the stems and apply the herbicides on the cut surface.
Do not expect the results to show up at the first attempt. You will need to be persistent with your efforts. If you are planning to grow wildflowers or other spring plants, make sure the chemical treatment is completed before you plant their seeds.