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bittersweet pics

Winter Control of Brush and Vines

Published on
04 December 2012

bittersweet picsSome folks may think that with the onset of winter, we can stop thinking about invasive plants – after all, they aren’t growing in winter, right? Well, while we may not have to worry about them growing during the dormant months of winter, natural area managers find that this is the best time to work on removing invasive shrubs, trees and vines. After all, one doesn’t have to deal with ticks and mosquitoes, plus, with the leaves off, it is much easier to cut and mulch (or burn) brush.

The picture above shows Oriental Bittersweet – an invasive vine that literally strangles trees like our beloved oaks. Artists seem to value the twisty stems, and florists love the prolific orange-clad berries for fall flower arrangements. However, left unchecked, this vine will pull down mature trees in just a few years.

Fortunately, this is an invasive plant that can be managed easily during the winter months once one knows how to identify it, and provided you have the proper chemical to apply to any cut stumps.

For those who dislike even the idea of using herbicides, I have to tell you that the alternative is to keep cutting the same plant every year. And, cutting these plants just encourages them to come back more aggressively the next year. Seriously. It is like the stories of Medusa – cut off her head, and seven new heads grew in its place. Cut one honeysuckle stem this winter, and you’ll be cutting at least seven new stems next year if you don’t give it a shot of herbicide.

Fortunately, herbicides will work when applied correctly in very small quantities. Since they are a poison, it is vital to wear proper protective gear and use the proper application technique to avoid harming yourself or native plants that may be growing nearby.

There is a lot of good information out there to help manage invasive plants in winter.

Friend Chris Evans coordinates an “Invasive Species” (eradication) Campaign in Illinois, and he often shares great information about best practices for recognizing and controlling invasive plants in Illinois. He posted a useful article recently that covers the basics of winter management of several of the most irritating invasive plants: Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, and Oriental Bittersweet. The article can be accessed here: Winter Management of Common Woody Invasive Species.

The article is on the site “Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month,” so you will find a lot of additional helpful advice about managing these pesky invaders.

If you don’t find the answers you are looking for on the website, contact Melissa in our office. Frankly, I think her mission in life is to rid natural areas of non-native and invasive plants! She knows all the tricks. Click here to email her, or give her a call at 815-337-9502.