Asiatic bittersweet is a deciduous, woody vine that climbs saplings and trees and can grow over 60 feet in length.
The alternate, elliptical to circular leaves are light green in color and 2-5 in. (5-13 cm) long.
Small, inconspicuous, axillary, greenish-white flowers bloom from May to early June. Oriental bittersweet closely resembles American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens). The main difference: Celastrus scandens has flowers and fruits at the terminal ends of branches; Celastrus orbiculatus has flowers scattered along the entire stem.
The small globose fruits are green when young; ripen to yellow; then split to reveal showy, scarlet berries that persist into winter.
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This fast growing vine growth encircles trees and girdles them, slowly killing the tree. Vines can completely cover other vegetation creating a carpet of vines over a large area. Birds and other wildlife eat the fruit, thus distributing the seeds. It hybridizes with American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) potentially leading to loss of genetic identity for the native species.
Originally introduced as an ornamental in 1860s
Fields, forests, forest edges, disturbed sites, ornamental plantings, shade tolerant
Asiatic bittersweet primarily reproduces by seed but can also reproduce asexually (runners, roots, root fragments, and root crown can all sprout). Plants are dioecious meaning that male and female flowers exist on separate plants. Insects, primarily bees, and wind pollinate the flowers. Flowers bloom May through June and then fruits are produced in July and October. A plant typically produces more than 350 fruits and each fruit contains between 3-6 seeds. The seeds have a high germination rate (90%) and remain viable for less than one year. Fruits remain on vine well into the winter.
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Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Asiatic bittersweet, E Spinney, VT FPR
Asiatic bittersweet infestation, 1509001, Max Williamson, USDA Forest Service
Asiatic bittersweet fruit, 2308050, Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut
American bittersweet fruit, 5477233, Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut