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They look the same with their colorful berries that are a true sign of fall, but can you tell these two plants apart? Both are commonly called bittersweet.
The biggest distinction between the two is their impact on the environment. One is an invasive plant that threatens to kill your trees; the other is an innocuous vine.
On the right is oriental bittersweet, one of the most invasive plants in the United States. It was introduced here in the 1860s and is now found from the east coast westward to Illinois.
On the left is American bittersweet that is itself threatened.
To tell them apart, look at their stems. The invasive oriental bittersweet has smooth stems, while the American bittersweet has blunt thorns.
You can also look at the location of their berries. The American bittersweet has berries only at the tip of its vines, while the invasive variety has berries that grow all along the vine.
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Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider