Thursday, December 03, 2009

Invasive Vine Kills Trees

Asiatic Bittersweet has overwhelmed this tree and is popping up in vacant lots all over.

The reason it got a foothold in our front yard is that the landlord has construed landscaping as having a crew with gang mowers cut the grass in 15 minutes every two weeks through the summer, but the shrubs have not been pruned for several years. The tree in the picture is actually a weed tree itself, but the display points up the vigor of Asiatic Bittersweet once it takes hold. It can grow up to 60 feet and indeed was killing a very tall pine tree until my neighbor cut its vines at the base. It strangles its host and also kills by blocking light. Its victims include two large forsythia bushes, which are so overwhelmed one would never know they were there.

As the article linked above points out, the only way to eradicate (literally, if you know your Latin) is to pull it up by the roots. The cut-off vines on the host can be left in place and will eventually wither away. Berry bunches can be bagged and left in the sun to be killed by the heat, but don't put them in your compost bin.

The berries are very pretty and one is tempted to use them for wreaths and decorations, but the seeds will spread the vine far and wide. In my walks and bus rides, I am seeing more and more of it around the city.

Plainfield has a law on the books about tall grass and weeds on property and this past year many cleanups have been performed. The City Council approves the cost, which then becomes a lien on the property. But invasives such as Asiatic Bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed escape the kind of labor-intensive treatment needed for control.

Maybe my neighbor and I will get out our loppers and pruning saws one day and tackle the vines, but we are somewhat resentful of the owner's neglect and we are not inclined to do him any favors. Some of the weed trees along our fence have grown as tall as the building.

If you are a property owner, check your yard for this vine. You can identify easily now by the berries. Pull up small vines and dig up bigger ones. In many places across the country, people have also formed volunteer groups to clear invasives out of public parks.

Vigilance against invasives requires both knowing how to recognize them and being willing to make the effort to control or eradicate them. Take a look around before winter takes hold and get some exercise clearing your yard of invasives.



Blogger Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...

Great! If we don't get run out of Plainfield by politicians, we now have an Asian Vine menacing to run us out of Plainfield!

Thanks Bernice for the warning. If only eradicating bad politics was a easy as eradicating the vine.

10:31 AM  

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