Three of the most prolific invasive plants in Connecticut – Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose – can sneak into any garden, making it very important to learn how to identify and manage them.
Learn to identify Connecticut’s invasives by studying the information at the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group, seeking the advice of gardener or garden coach experienced in identifying the most prolific garden invasives in your area, and/or taking small samples to a trusted, local garden center for identification.
During this time of year, when invasive shrubs and vines are leafing out, I search for young Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose sprouting in and around bird-popular shrubs and trees. Birds eat the berries produced by more mature specimens of these invasives growing on neighboring properties, then spread undigested seeds via droppings. So … just below where birds like to roost is a good place to watch for emerging invasives.
What I found this week under a bird-popular winterberry shrub growing at the edge of our driveway is a perfect example.
You might not expect this to be the scene of an invasion … but it was. Among young winterberry shoots, different types of sedum, violets, an iris, ornamental grasses, and a dandelion grew three very unwanted plants.
The young Japanese barberry caught my eye first.
Then a closer look revealed a multiflora rose and young Oriental bittersweet shoots.
Without a keen eye and knowing what is what, it’s easy to pass over the bittersweet as emerging winterberry shoots, but closer examination reveals the difference in the leaves.
Now that I’ve found the three invasives growing under this winterberry, I will recheck the area throughout the growing season to be sure no other bird-dropped seeds have sprouted.
Once one becomes adept in how these three young invasives look, finding them becomes easier. Familiarize yourself with the look of young Japanese barberry; note the thorny stems. Moreover, the interior roots are yellow-green.
The multiflora rose has a typical-looking rose leaf and the stems sport classic rose thorns.
Oriental bittersweet can be sneaky, but once you familiarize yourself with the various stages of growth, you’ll become quite adept at -spotting this invasive vine. Leaves on young vines are light green, the stems – with leaves at the very end – usually stand straight up reaching toward the light and the roots are orange.
Do not put these plants in the compost pile. Leave them on a hot surface to dry and die before disposing of them in the trash.
By finding these three invasives early, you can usually pull them out of the ground with roots intact. Once they become larger it becomes more difficult to get all the roots out of the ground, which allows re-sprouting. Still, any location where one of these young invasives has been found and pulled must be re-visited through the growing season to check for re-growth which, of course, requires re-pulling and continued re-checking.
Why bother with all this? All three are highly invasive and crowd out other, often native, vegetation. Japanese barberry is particularly noxious and creates a perfect habitat for disease-bearing ticks. Oriental bittersweet is a vine that will wind around and smother anything. Multiflora rose is thorny and not the nicest looking rose, grows quickly, and crowds out other vegetation. Plus, these invasives are much easier to eradicate when young, with small root systems. Once any of the three become established they are a whole lot more difficult to eradicate.