Scott T. Hutchison

American Bittersweet


-United States Department of Agriculture/
Natural Resources Conservation Services

Summer foliage followed by
orange and red fruits, colorful berries
and arils, shrubby vines forming low
thick stands from root suckers,
clambering and climbing onto fences
and trees, broadly twining twisting
of the stem, creeping, fragrant small flowers
greenish-white or greenish-yellow in clusters
growing in rich or swampy woods
appearing weedy in disturbed areas
thickets, roadsides, field edges
can girdle and kill live plants
used for support, grows over
uprooting by force
of its massive weight

all parts are poisonous,
but for songbirds, ruffed grouse
pheasant and fox squirrel
who eat the fruits
used in dry flowers
winter decorations
twisting of the stem
leaves are glabrous
fruits, globose
seeds in bright scarlet
climbing bittersweet
false bittersweet
climbing orange-root
Jacob’s-ladder
fever-twitch
fever-twig


Source & Method

United States Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Services. Straightforward information in their plant guide that, to my ear, sounded like music. Picked pieces, rearranged.


Scott T. Hutchison has work in The Georgia Review and The Southern Review. Poems are forthcoming in Appalachian Heritage, Concho River Review, Louisiana Literature, The Naugatuck River Review, Red Dirt Forum, Steam Ticket and Tar River Poetry. A new book of poetry, Moonshine Narratives, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing.


Photo by Matt Hoffman