Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb. (Oriental bittersweet) is an invasive exotic liana introduced to western North Carolina in the late 1800s that has established in forests across the southern Appalachian region. The twining habit of bittersweet is recognized to have negative impacts on tree growth by constricting trunks, overtopping canopies, and increasing the probability of wind and ice damage. Our study was designed to quantify effects of invasion by C. orbiculatus on Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip poplar) growth. We cored trees on invaded sites with both twined and untwined trees to test for above and below ground competition effects of C. orbiculatus and compared growth to nearby uninvaded sites. Contrary to our expectations, we found radial growth increased after invasion. This increase is likely a release response from a disturbance that allowed C. orbiculatus to become establised. There were many historical ice storms that occured in our region during the time of C. orbiculatus invasion that may have helped it to become established in these stands. Liriodendron tulipifera are known to respond positively after ice storm thinning and this release may mask any initial negative effects of liana competition. The short duration of our study may not have been long enough to capture the transition from the effect of canopy release due to disturbance to competition with C. orbiculatus.
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Vol. 172 • No. 1