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Thanksgiving is such a great family holiday. We get together and all make our favorite foods and take time to appreciate the season of the year. I love the colors of fall – cranberry, red, rust, pumpkin, orange and tan. I often look forward to creating holiday decorations.

Many people enjoy the same things about this time of year – and find materials in nature to create their decorations. Bittersweet can be very attractive – its wiry twining vine makes it sturdy enough to bind into a wreath, its orange and red berries are very festive. If you MUST have these colors – PLEASE use silk or plastic replicas from your local discount store rather than collecting it from fields and roadsides where it is so abundant and tempting.

One way that Oriental bittersweet has been spread throughout the countryside is by the creation of these festive “holiday” wreaths as shown. You may think that you are helping by cutting away some of the vine for use in decoration, but what happens after the holiday? First – cutting the vine does not deter it, it only makes it spread more quickly – cutting stimulates more growth in the springtime. Second – if you hang the wreath on the door, birds will take the berries off the wreath and spread them into your garden or yard. Third – once you’re done with the decorations or wreath if you throw the material into your compost pile – POW! there is an excellent germination site for these invasive plants and suddenly bittersweet will be taking over your back yard.

Some people have told me that they only use the “native” bittersweet for their decorations. Unfortunately, American bittersweet is very uncommon and not easily found in the landscape. Cutting it would be detrimental to that plant since it is not a strong competitor in the plant world. American bittersweet produces fewer berries while Oriental bittersweet is so pervasive – and it produces so many more of the attractive berries!

Many designers feature these beautiful berries in their holiday ideas – do not be tempted! Stick with the plastic and silk imitation. You and your garden will be happier with the results.

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