Invading Invasives

May 05th, 2009

You’ve probably heard about invasive, non-native species in the news. Sometimes they’re animals–like the Zebra Mussels that take over freshwater shellfish habitat from native species, and the introduced species of weasels that decimated the New Zealand bird population. Sometimes they’re plants, like Kudzu, which conquered the South, and Mile-a-Minute that can grow up to 6 inches a day. Today we tackled a particularly tenacious invasive plant on the farm, Oriental Bittersweet. The plant is a viney, trailing bush that takes over large swaths of areas, climbing on and weighing down trees, choking and shading out native species, including American Bittersweet.

Our Oriental Bittersweet had taken over a part of the cattle fence, that stands as a reminder of the dairy farming that was once occurred on the Ovid Hazen Wells property. Most of the fence rotted away long ago, but in the wetlands stands a stretch about 30 feet long that was simply covered in Bittersweet. This morning Beth and Michelle tackled it and were able to take out about 10 feet of the viney bush. Here’s a photo of Beth taking the pruners to the base of the plant. Check out the giant pile of branches on the left that she already ripped out!

The best way to deal with this bugger is to cut a window out of the plant. Chop it at the base, and chop at the top, then pull out the section you’ve just sliced. This kills the part above, and hopefully stops or slows down growth of the bottom portion.

If you decide to try to tackle this problem plant, pay close attention to the plant’s structure to make sure you’re targeting the right guy. The one on the left is American Bittersweet and is a good native plant. The one on the right is Oriental Bittersweet and is a bad invasive plant. The surest way to tell them apart is that the Oriental Bittersweet buds all along the stem in between leaves, while the American Bittersweet only buds at the very end of the stem.

Next on our hit list: Garlic Mustard!