Bittersweet: a bad seed in disguise


November 11, 2006|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to The Sun

We like the orange berries of a vine that started growing up our deck. Now we found the same type vine growing up a tree. My husband says they may be trouble. What do you think?

The vine in your photo is Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), an ornamental import that turned out to be invasive. This vine smothers and pulls down trees. Leaves may be round or pointed ovals. Birds eat the berries, and then seedlings pop up under trees where birds perch. Pull all seedlings; their roots are orange-red. Never let them produce berries. We recommend you remove your vines by cutting them at the base and treating the freshly cut stumps with an herbicide containing triclopyr, such as Brush-B-Gone. Since you like the berries, consider planting American bittersweet.

As soon as I brought my Christmas cactus indoors it budded. It has finished blooming before Thanksgiving! How can I slow it down next year?

Night temperatures of 50-55 degrees initiate bud formation on this jungle cactus, also known as Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus and Claw cactus. Next year, bring it in before nights get cool - late summer or very early fall. Those grown indoors year round can be brought into bloom by giving them about 13 hours of darkness nightly.


Make pruning cuts on trees and shrubs any time between November and February.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

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