Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learn to Identify Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet can cause severe tree damage.  It is
easily identified in the fall by its yellow foliage.
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is an invasive exotic vine that is often used in holiday decorations and wreaths this time of year.  It also causes severe damage to our woodlands as it climbs trees and shrubs strangling and shading them out.  It can cause severe tree damage.  I have experienced this vine first-hand at the Ag Progress Days woodlot in central PA.  I found one severe infestation of the vine in an old patch clearcut from 15 years ago and now I have been finding the vine everywhere.

Oriental bittersweet is often used
for making wreaths this time of year

It is extremely difficult to control.  I have been trying to rid the woodlot of the vine since I discovered it a few years ago and I just keep finding more.  I have also found that not only does the vine climb trees but it also root sucker and send up sprouts.  Theses new sprouts are extremely difficult to find and control.  I have spent hours searching through areas with a backpack sprayer treating new sprouts.  When spraying I use a mixture of glyphosate and triclopyr mixed 2:1 respectively.  This mix is also good for other invasive plants you may encounter and want to treat at the same time.

It is important that you learn to identify Oriental bittersweet as we also have a native American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens).  The two are often confused and unfortunately, they are know to hybridize.  The University of Minnesota Extension has put together and excellent YouTube Video on how to easily identify the invasive exotic vine and differentiate it from the American vine.  Now is a great time to watch for it and avoid spreading the seeds. Minnesota's new Extension fact sheet will also help you differentiate between native American bittersweet and its noxious invasive cousin.
Oriental bittersweet has yellow seed capsules and the fruits are located
all along the stem in the axils of the leaf
The primary ways to differentiate between the two are as follows:
American Bittersweet
Flowers and fruits are at the ends of the branches
Seed capsules are orange

Oriental Bittersweet
Flowers and fruits are in the axils of the leaves all along the vine
Seed capsules are yellow

Here is the link to the PA DCNR Invasive Plants of Pennsylvania fact sheet on Oriental Bittersweet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Real vs Artificial Christmas Trees

With the holiday season upon us I thought it would be appropriate to provide a post on the real vs. artificial Christmas tree debate.  Of course my person al preference is to support our local economy, our local growers who depend on selling Christmas trees to make a living, and select a real tree.  But, is that really the best choice for the environment?  I have seen many different opinions on the subject expressed.  I recently came across the below article from Dovetails Partners, Inc. and thought I would share it with my readers.  Dovetail Partners is a nonprofit corporation that provides authoritative information about the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives.

Interestingly enough, if you go to the American Christmas Tree Associations web site they say there is no debate.  They feel that consumers should "feel free to choose either type of tree, or better yet, choose one or more of each!"   They state that "recent Life Cycle Analysis studies concluded that neither tree has a significant negative impact on the environment." Well, for my money I am still going to go with a real tree.....the debate may never be settled!

Real Versus Artificial Christmas Trees - An Environmental Perspective (Dovetail Partners 11/18/2013)
Each year around the holiday season decision making swings into full gear as people begin decorating and buying gifts for loved ones. For those that celebrate Christmas, an important decision regarding trees is often over-looked - should you buy a real or artificial Christmas tree, and how does your decision impact the environment? Cost, convenience, and personal preference are all important considerations, but so too is the environmental impact of each option.

Research has shown that locally-sourced natural trees have less environmental impact than artificial ones. An independent Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study released by the Montreal firm Elliposos (February 2009) determined that real trees have less overall impact in terms of distribution, disposal, and average carbon emissions than their artificial counterparts. The LCA method allows for evaluation of potential environmental impacts of a product (or service) over its entire life cycle and takes raw material processing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, use, reuse, recycling and disposal impacts into consideration.

When it comes to artificial trees, the key to achieving environmental gains lies in the amount of time they're kept and reused. Average households replace an artificial tree about every six years.  Evidence shows that, in general, artificial trees need to be reused for at least 20 years if they are to compare favorably with natural trees.

To read the rest of the story click here.