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November 22, 2011

An American Bittersweet Tale

- by Debra Anchors


The beauty of the day was not to be wasted. There was not a cloud in our beautiful blue sky and the sun was positively blinding. The weather was unusual for November 21st in Michigan and the 43°F temperature, under all of that sunshine, didn’t feel cold at all.
  
I’m not sure what I will do with this bounty, but I have an entire trunk filled with Celastrus scandens, or ‘American bittersweet’ – that wonderful climbing plant that bears clusters of bright orange pods this time of year. Nature has been working to perfect its color all summer and the bittersweet has reached perfection for our use at Thanksgiving.




My parents still own the property of my childhood – forty acres of pines, hardwoods and rolling hills   only 2-miles away from where we raised our family. My father planted the foot-high pine trees we proudly carried home each year from school during the week of Arbor Day.  The pines in that small grove of trees are now well over 60 feet tall – and have now become fully enveloped in American bittersweet vines 


Our native birds are so helpful. I suspect the Eastern bluebird is the main distributor of this native plant – Bittersweet attracts them and is an emergency food source for most birds in the winter. 

I love bittersweet, but it is no friend to its neighboring plant life. The vines the bittersweet will use to reach for the sun will soon overcome anything near it, blocking the sunlight from their host. Such is the fate, I fear, of this plot of mature and beautiful pine trees; the vines have a firm grip on one of them already. Since this is the only place we have ever found bittersweet growing, and because the American Bittersweet plant is becoming so rare that it is now a protected species, we are content to let it remain. 


Perhaps it was destiny that the Arbor Day pine trees I so proudly carried home years ago were to provide support for this beautiful accident of nature   but it is a bittersweet story.


The video here demonstrates how to make a wreath using Oriental Bittersweet and grape vines. The Oriental variety is prolific, easier to locate and will work as well as the rare American Bittersweet vine in a wreath. I hope you enjoy it!





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-Debra

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3 comments:

  1. Interesting plant. We don't get that here in England but boy how it ramps - hope no one introduces it.

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  2. Hello Catharine - I do know what you mean; bittersweet is very invasive when it does take-hold.

    Thank you for dropping by.

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  3. I am trying figure out if we anything similar over here...

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