Removing Oriental Bittersweet to Save Trees

For the past two years MyRWA has hosted Oriental Bittersweet removal events as part of a 2-year National Fish and Wildlife Foundation project to improve habitat in the biggest park on the Mystic River.

When we organize invasive species removal events of any kind we always explain to volunteers what exactly invasive species are: non-native plants that thrive in this environment, spread rapidly, and have a detrimental effect on the native ecosystem.

Oriental Bittersweet is especially toxic. Stealing light and nutrients from trees and growing to a diameter sometimes exceeding six inches, bittersweet is a parasitic vine that can topple trees just with its weight alone. This plant kills trees and it's our pleasure to try and remove it from the Mystic! So far more than 400 volunteers have participated in multiple 3-hour cleanup events totaling more than 1200 person-hours over three seasons. In just a short time this project has had remarkable, visible impact: areas that were draped in bittersweet and blocked, including the areas overlooking the river, are now freed of the burden of the vine and open. Dozens of trees have been "freed"! 

We are incredibly appreciative of the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, whose crews took all the material we removed and chipped it, and the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers who have helped along the way. 

Like many invasive plant projects, this is an ongoing management issue and we'll continue to dedicate our best efforts towards its removal. Volunteers are encouraged to join us in early October for a native-species planting. More details to come. 

Look through our last community bittersweet removal event here.