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Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus): Spreading by fire

Pavlovic, Noel B., Leicht-Young, Stacey A., Grundel, Ralph
Forest ecology and management 2016 v.364 pp. 183-194
Celastrus orbiculatus, burning, carbohydrates, cutting, forest canopy, forest ecosystems, forests, growing season, herbicides, invasive species, landscapes, moraine soils, plant communities, sandy soils, spring, stems, summer, East Asia, North America
In many forest ecosystems, fire is critical in maintaining indigenous plant communities, but can either promote or arrest the spread of invasive species depending on their regeneration niche and resprouting ability. We examined the effects of cutting and burning treatments on the vegetative response (cover, stem density) and root resources of Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), a liana invasive to North America that was introduced from East Asia. Treatments were control, spring cut, spring burn, spring cut & burn, summer cut, fall cut, fall burn, fall cut & burn, and fall herbicide. Cover was reduced the greatest by herbicide and summer cutting treatments, but increased more in the second year on moraine soils than on sandy soils. Burning and cutting & burning combined resulted in a resprout density four times greater than stem density prior to treatment for stems <2.5mm diameter than cutting alone. For stems, across all diameter classes, there was a more than 100% increase in stem density with burning and almost a 300% increase in stem density with cutting & burning in the spring. Density of resprouts and root-suckers, and survival increased with increasing stem size. While cutting of C. orbiculatus during the growing season (summer) reduced total nonstructural carbohydrates by 50% below early growing season levels and 75% below dormant season levels, burning did not significantly reduce total nonstructural carbohydrates. Thus, Oriental bittersweet is quite responsive to burning as a disturbance and resprouting and root-suckering creates additional opportunities for growth and attainment of the forest canopy. The positive response of Oriental bittersweet to burning has important implications for management of invasive lianas in fire-dependent forest landscapes.