Oriental bittersweet - illegal
American bittersweet - legal
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The holidays are fast approaching, and with them comes a warning about an exotic and invasive plant that looks beautiful but can have an ugly impact on the environment.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is asking both retailers and holiday decorators to keep their eyes open for the vibrant Oriental bittersweet, a woody vine commonly used for landscaping and holiday decor.
If allowed to establish the invasive vine can strangle trees, dominate tree canopies and kill understory plants from lack of sunlight. Because of these destructive capabilities it is illegal for Oriental bittersweet to be transported or sold in Minnesota as enforced by Minnesota's Noxious Weed Law.
If the vine is found in the state, it should be destroyed or controlled immediately.
Oriental bittersweet is already known to be in Red Wing, Stillwater, the Twin Cities, and Winona. First confirmed in Minnesota in 2010, new pockets of the vine have been found each year since the initial discovery.
"We are very concerned with new infestations moving into the state," said MDA Plant Protection Division Director Geir Friisoe. "Several of the nation's largest Oriental bittersweet distributors are next door in Wisconsin, making it easy for the invasive plant to move into Minnesota."
There is a similar looking alternative to Oriental bittersweet-American bittersweet which is both native and non-invasive. The MDA says fall and winter are the easiest seasons to distinguish between the two because fruits are clearly visible. American bittersweet fruits have orange fruit capsules; this is the safe variety in Minnesota.
Oriental bittersweet, the illegal or invasive variety, has yellow fruit capsules. American bittersweet fruits are at the ends of stems; versus Oriental bittersweet fruits, which are found all along stems and at leaf axils.
If you find suspected Oriental bittersweet, bag or burn the material and contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at 1-888-545-6684 or Arrest.the.Pest@state.mn.us.
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