Ottawa County Parks – Parks PSA

Parks PSA: Avoid bittersweet in your holiday wreaths

It’s festive, but it’s a “gift” that keeps growingbittersweet

Wouldn’t it be great if all of the invasive plants we work to eradicate were terribly unattractive? It certainly would make the job easier.

One of the most popular plants for holiday decor is the very lovely, but very invasive, Oriental bittersweet.

Birds will eat the berries, but they can’t fully digest them. When they dispose of the partially digested berries, it spreads the plant to other places.

Eastmanville Bayou is one of our properties where Oriental bittersweet has flourished. It grows rapidly, wrapping itself around trees, girdling them. It is so strong it can choke out and bring down a full grown tree.

The plant is so prolific there, it inspired our Prescribed Browsing Project. Luckily, the goats think it’s delicious.

There is a native bittersweet, but it can be difficult to find and identify. There is only one American bittersweet recorded in our park system, and it has only flowered once in five years.

Below is a photo of Allendale Middle School students attempting to remove bittersweet at Eastmanville Bayou and a guide to identify bittersweet berries.

bittersweet taking over eastmanville bayou


On the left is the invasive plant; on the right is the native, which is uncommon in the area.

Is there hope in fighting invasive plants?

Yes, only because of our volunteers!edrr

Our volunteers and school groups help us fight the worst infestations in the county. Without volunteers, treatment of these larger infestations would be incredibly expensive and time consuming. Sometimes it may feel as though the battle against invasive plants is hopeless, but invasive species are a threat that all individuals can do something about.

What is EDRR?

Early detection, rapid response is a nationally-recognized strategy used to manage and treat invasive plants. Detecting invasive plants early significantly decreases the time and cost of treatment.

We employ a dedicated staff, the Stewardship Crew, who focus on early detection and treatment. One of their most important tools is a GPS unit they use to constantly survey and map-out where invasives pop up. They then turn to volunteers to start pulling.

Success storiesstew crew
Over the summer our Stewardship Crew detected a small patch of buckthorn at Hiawatha Forest. Buckthorn is one of the worst invasives in the state, but through monitoring and removal of small infestations, we have been successful at keeping it in the early detection stage in Ottawa County

Before: Honeysuckle taking over Olive Shores


After: Olives Shores has been managed by volunteers from Harbor Industries and Consumers Energy for three years, nearly all of the honeysuckle has been removed.


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