|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Thursday, 21 October 2010|
In some instances the native species and the exotic species of a plant may appear quite similar and one may be mislabeled or mistaken for the other.
Sometimes plants are confusing--very confusing. For instance a Daily Dirt post about American bittersweet sent a few people reeling before they realized that it was about American bittersweet and NOT Oriental bittersweet, an extremely invasive vine that is listed as noxious, prohibited, invasive, banned, or some combination thereof in five states.
Bittersweet is bittersweet, right? Yes and no. Yes, itís the same genus, (Celastrus), but the species are different in the way they affect the ecosystem. American bittersweet is relatively rare and is usually sold at nurseries that specialize in native plants. The bittersweet that you see along the side of the road or at the forest edge is most likely Oriental bittersweet, which often colonizes disturbed areas and chokes out other vegetation, as shown in the picture above.
To the untrained eye these two species may look similar, but there are botanical differences, distinguished primarily by the location of female flowers and fruits, with terminal reproductive organs on American bittersweet and axillary organs on Oriental bittersweet. Identification may be difficult for male plants and female plants without flowers or fruits (Source: USDA Forest Service Database).
To complicate matters, Oriental bittersweet and American bittersweet may hybridize. In addition, this invasive Oriental bittersweet is still sold at nurseries and will continue to be sold unless banned and prohibited by state law.
The lesson learned here is that while it's important to plant and replenish native species, caution must be used in instances where the native species and the exotic species appear quite similar and one may be mislabeled or mistaken for the other.
Photo source: http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu