Sunday, December 8, 2013

Joining Hands for a Better World: 12.8.13

Last Tuesday I set out on a pre-Christmas challenge — to post a tip a day we can collectively follow with the goal of making the world a better place.

Today’s Tip: Be Careful How You Decorate 

In a November 26 press release, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) asked Connecticut residents and decorators to consider alternatives to invasive plants such as Oriental bittersweet this holiday season. 

An invasive plant is not native to the place where it is found. According to the USDA an invasive plant “can thrive in areas beyond their natural range of dispersal. These plants are characteristically adaptable, aggressive, and have a high reproductive capacity. Their vigor combined with a lack of natural enemies often leads to outbreak populations.”

Photo by Nicole Gabelman, UConn Plant Science and Landscape Architecture
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), with its distinctive bright red fruit, has sometimes been used in holiday decorations, including wreaths. This plant is a highly invasive, non-native vine that that can wrap around trees, damaging and sometimes killing them. The extra weight from Oriental bittersweet on limbs can also cause limb drop, contributing to damage and power outages. Use of the vines in decorations helps spread seeds of the plant to new locations. Additionally, improper disposal of the decorations, either outdoors or in compost after the holiday season, can contribute to the spread of bittersweet.

“There are many alternatives to invasive plants that may be used for holiday decorations” said Logan Senack, Invasive Plant Coordinator for Connecticut. “Often, local florist and greenhouse growers are able to provide attractive and interesting alternatives to bittersweet and other invasives. These include native plants that are not invasive, such as winterberry holly. [Be warned, however, that winterberry holly berries are poisonous to humans if eaten.] Selling or moving Oriental bittersweet is also prohibited by state law.”

The law, which went into effect in 2004, prohibits the moving, selling, purchasing, transplanting, cultivating or distributing of 80 invasive plant species, including Oriental bittersweet, in Connecticut. This prohibition extends to seeds, flowers, and other reproductive portions of the plants.  Fines for violations of the law are listed at $50 per plant.

Individuals who find invasive plants such as bittersweet for sale in Connecticut are asked to contact the DEEP or the Connecticut Invasive Plant Coordinator at 860-208-3900 (email: For more information about Oriental bittersweet and other invasive plants in Connecticut, visit the website of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group, the source of the photo above.

The message is clear. Be very careful what you bring home from any walks in the woods. And if you see Oriental bittersweet or other invasives for sale, say something.

That’s it for today. “See you tomorrow.”

“All together now,” as the Beatles once sang. Let’s see how much good we can do over the next few weeks.

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