Saturday, November 21, 2009

American Bittersweet

American Bittersweet is a very interesting plant. I love the way the berries look like flowers with their little orange petals. It’s a plant I discovered back in my college days in Missouri. I would see it along country roads while riding my bike, or in fields while taking a walk. It looks best in the winter against a brown field or snowy woods.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were still in our closing-crisis on this house, I went for a run along the River Road in Andover. As I was jogging along what should I see but a Bittersweet plant! I was so excited; I made a note of its location so that I could go back and take a picture of it at some point. I knew it would somehow lead to a blog post.

Then I had to go to St. Louis for a week to check on my mom, and then I got caught up in all the work involved in settling into a new house. But on my to-do list the item “go take pictures of American Bittersweet on Chambers Road in Andover” still waited until I had time to execute it. And that time came this week.

One afternoon I hopped in the car and drove back to Andover. I turned onto Chambers Road and drove along slowly, watching for the Bittersweet, not sure exactly where it was located. But suddenly there it was! I jumped out of the car and started snapping pictures.

American Bittersweet has become relatively rare in the wild because people pick the seeds for propagation since the plants are so pretty and ornamental. And I guess its not that easy to grow from seed because you need both male and female plants in order to grow berries. But I think it would look very pretty against our rock wall in the back yard, so maybe I’ll order some plants in the spring.

I took pictures of another red berried plant as well. I always think of it as Bittersweet’s second cousin. It’s not as rare as Bittersweet and I don’t know its name. Its berries are pretty, but they don’t have those orange petals that I love. I tried identifying it online, but I’m not very good at that sort of thing. It might be a type of honeysuckle or maybe a cranberry? I see it around this area a lot. I think it’s another bush I’d like to acquire!

It makes me happy that northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire have many of the same plants as Missouri. In fact, it’s interesting that Columbia and Salem are in almost the same gardening zones. Salem is listed as zone 5a, while Columbia is listed as zone 5b. I’m very curious to see what the winter is really going to be like. Will it be colder? Yes, a little. Will it be longer? I think so. Will there be more snow? Yes, and it will stay on the ground longer too.

This week Daniel has been taking the gps to work most days, leaving me to figure my way around Salem via googlemaps. That has actually been a very good thing. Despite getting lost a few times, I feel much more oriented to my surroundings now. And I’ve discovered that Salem is NOT all strip malls! It has a very pretty town center, just like all the other towns around here. I’m slightly relived to discover that I don’t need to apologize for the ugliness of my town while at the same time reveling in its status as a tax-free shopping mecca. New Hampshire’s lack of a sales tax, however, just means that they need to make up that revenue through other methods, which I discovered yesterday when I went to register my car. When all was said and done I paid almost $400 for my registration and license plates, and that wasn’t even for an entire year, since these plates will expire in July of 2010! Maybe the state motto should be “Live Free or Pay Through the Nose in Hidden Costs”.

The thing that is very different from Missouri is how all the little towns around here just run into one another. Driving around its easy to go from Salem to Methuen to Haverhill without ever noticing unless you see the ”Welcome to” sign as you slip from one town to another. It’s a little bit like the outer reaches of St. Louis County in that respect. Its country and yet it’s also an outer suburb of Boston. It’s kind of like it can’t quite make up its mind WHAT it is.


  1. Making your way - day by day - sounds good! I have never heard of that plant - Bittersweet. On the other hand, a plant I often can't get out of my mind from the midwest is 5:00 plants. Loved those flowers as a child.

  2. Sorry Lynn, I meant 4 O'Clocks...

  3. I have a small tree in my backyard with flowers like that... is it a tree or a plant?? Hm, I just realized I'm reading my mom's blog at 8:30pm on a Saturday and wondering about plants. Officially old.
    - Sarah



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