Save our Trees from Invasive Vines

Vines are important for birds and insects. They grow in edges and thin woods rather than in dense woods. Nowadays, though, with the segmentation of woods and with old fields growing into young woods, as on Lathrop’s property, there is so much edge and thin woods that vines are overwhelming.

There is a native grape vine that grows straight up into the tree. Most of its leaves have lobes, like a maple leaf, but larger. It produces grapes and nourishes lots of wildlife, so we want to keep some. However, we have lots of it, so it’s okay to cut it when it’s threatening a tree or shrub you value.

Alien vines–kill as many as you can. They do not support as many insects as our native vines, and, having left behind the enemies and competitors that control them in their native land, they can run amok, smothering and killing trees and shrubs, which they are busy doing on our property.

Our most prominent alien invasive vine is Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), which has orange berries and which twists around the stems and trunk of its hosts.

We also have porcelainberry (Ampelopsis arborea), whose berries are various colors. The leaves resemble grape vine leaves, but the stem pith of porcelain-berry is white (grape is brown) and the stem does not peel (grape does).

There is a native bittersweet that we should protect (Celastrus scandens). It, too, has orange berries, but is slow growing and provides important winter food for birds. Its berries grow only on the tips of the vines, while Oriental bittersweet berries grow all along the vines. Sharon and I have not seen any native bittersweet at Lathrop, but keep an eye out for it; it’s disappearing in North America. You might want to consider planting some of it around your home. Be sure you get one of the varieties that are native to this area.

Bittersweet wreaths? Experts say don’t buy bittersweet wreaths because birds eat the berries and spread the seeds. Also, you don’t want to encourage the industry. It is illegal to import, trade, sell, or propagate live Oriental bittersweet plants in Massachusetts.

It is not difficult to kill invasive vines. Any time from now through early winter, cut off the vine near the ground with a pruner, lopper, or tree saw. Within ten minutes, use an eyedropper to put a drop of Roundup Concentrate on the cut stem (use gloves). You’re DONE! (So’s the vine.) Want a demonstration on how to remove invasive vines? Contact Barbara Walvoord: or 203-5086.

Do not try to pull the vine from the trees; you’ll potentially do more damage. The vine will die and eventually fall off.

At this time of the year, and into winter, the vine is drawing down its nutrients from its leaves into its roots. It draws down the glyphosate, which interferes with its metabolism.

Use the concentrate straight from the bottle. Our bottle says 18% glyphosate, which seems to do the trick. The experts advise 20-25% solution. If the vine is less than 100 feet from water or wetland, only a certified person can legally apply herbicide in Massachusetts.

A good website for learning more about invasives is


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