The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is reminding Connecticut residents to be on the lookout for invasive Oriental bittersweet this holiday season, and to avoid using the plant or selling it in wreaths and other holiday décor.
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) was formerly used in wreath-making and other holiday decorations. The woody vine produces bright red fruits with yellow outer coverings that may be attractive for craft projects. Unfortunately, according to DEEP, the use of the vines helps to spread seeds to new areas, and once established in natural settings, the vines can wrap around trees, strangling them.
The extra load on the tree limbs caused by the plant can also cause the limbs to fail, contributing to damage and power outages. Improper disposal of the decorations, either outdoors or in compost after the holiday season, can contribute to the spread of this highly invasive species.
“We ask everyone to consider the impact on the environment when decorating for this holiday season and avoid using material from bittersweet or other invasive plants,” said Logan Senack, Connecticut Invasive Plant Coordinator. “There are alternatives to using invasives for adding color to holiday decorations, and a number of local florists and greenhouse growers are often able to provide these options.”
“Decorators and florists should also be aware that selling or moving Oriental bittersweet is prohibited by state law,” advised Senack. Oriental bittersweet is listed as invasive in Connecticut due to its fast growth, high seed production, and the environmental damage it causes.
The law, which went into effect in 2004, prohibits the moving, selling, purchasing, transplanting, cultivating or distributing of 80 invasive plant species in Connecticut. This prohibition extends to seeds, flowers, and other reproductive portions of the plants. Fines for violation of the law are listed at $50 per plant.
Individuals who find invasive bittersweet for sale in Connecticut are asked to contact the Connecticut Invasive Plant Coordinator at 860-208-3900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Oriental bittersweet in Connecticut, visit cipwg.uconn.edu.