American Bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

Family: Celastraceae
Genus: Celastrus (see-LAS-trus) (Info)
Species: scandens (SKAN-dens) (Info)

Category:

Vines and Climbers

Height:

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Spacing:

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Foliage:

Deciduous

Chartreuse/Yellow

Other details:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Madison, Connecticut

Keystone Heights, Florida

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Gurnee, Illinois

Niles, Illinois

Scottsburg, Indiana

Valparaiso, Indiana

Warren, Indiana

Iowa City, Iowa

Morehead, Kentucky

Brookeville, Maryland

Cumberland, Maryland

Amherst, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Halifax, Massachusetts

Milton, Massachusetts

Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Grosse Ile, Michigan

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Northville, Michigan

Warren, Michigan

Buffalo, Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Rogersville, Missouri

Missoula, Montana

Blair, Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska

Somerset, New Jersey

Fairport, New York

Staten Island, New York

Grassy Creek, North Carolina

Bucyrus, Ohio

Defiance, Ohio

Dundee, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Portland, Oregon

Glenshaw, Pennsylvania

Milford, Pennsylvania

Collierville, Tennessee

Barre, Vermont

Hot Springs, Virginia

Blue River, Wisconsin

Verona, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

6
positives
4
neutrals
1
negative
RatingContent
Neutral

On Jul 3, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

In North American commerce, the invasive oriental bittersweet (C. orbiculatus) is commonly sold as our native C. scandens, so it's important to be able to tell the difference:

1) C. scandens has orange to red outer fruit casings. In C. orbiculatus, they are yellow.

2) C. scandens bears its flowers and fruits at the tips of secondary branches only. In C. orbiculatus, flowers and fruits are borne in the leaf axils.

Wherever it occurs, oriental bittersweet commonly hybridizes with our native bittersweet, and the hybrids are like the invader. The native species is being hybridized out of existence.

[HYPERLINK@www.minnesotawild... read more

Positive

On Jul 2, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I've only seen this American species twice so far over many years and both times in northern Illinois planted, not wild. It is a fast growing, powerful liana or woody vine. It needs a strong support and can twine around other plants easily, so keep it sort of isolated. Its leaves are not so rounded as the similar Oriental Bittersweet and its flowers and fruits are borne terminally rather than more laterally as the Asian species. In the Mid-Atlantic the Asian species is very invasive everywhere and can kill trees by twining around them.

Positive

On Jun 18, 2013, Dean48089 from Warren, MI (Zone 6b) wrote:

When I was a kid bittersweet grew all over our farm. It was a great way to hide old equipment, rolls of old fencing, and other things that tend to accumulate around the farm -- just move it to the hedgerow and a year from now it will be covered with bittersweet.

I have also seen bittersweet growing in 2nd and 3rd generation woods, where it can reach 'Tarzan' proportions. In cultivation it would need a very sturdy support, such as one would have for wisteria, due to the size and weight of the vine.

I don't see bittersweet much anymore in Southeast Michigan, which is too bad. As far as I know I have never seen the oriental species.

Positive

On May 26, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

In the U.S., American Bittersweet is a native plant that is becoming endangered. Oriental Bittersweet is it's non-native, horribly invasive look-alike. DO NOT PLANT ORIENTAL BITTERSWEET. It is destroying native plants and the wildlife that depend on them. Be sure you have American Bittersweet.

Here's how you tell them apart:
"American bittersweet produces flowers (and fruits) in single terminal panicles at the tips of the stems; flower panicles and fruit clusters are about as long as the leaves; the leaves are nearly twice as long as wide and are tapered at each end. Oriental bittersweet produces flowers in small axillary clusters that are shorter than the subtending leaves and the leaves are very rounded. Comparing the two, American bittersweet has fewer, larger ... read more

Neutral

On Mar 6, 2010, tiaj from Strafford, NH wrote:

Although C. scandens is our native it readily hybridizes with the invasive C. orbiculatus, so no matter where you live it is not advisable to plant new plantings of it. This hybridization will only create MORE of the invasive plants. :-/

Positive

On Aug 1, 2009, grik from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I planted two vines of Celeastrus scandens 'Indian Brave' and 'Indian Maid' about 10 years ago. They are about 25ft tall now and look great.

I especially like the way the bark looks as they get big. The birds like them for shelter but I don't know how much use they make of the berries. I do have some reseeding but little vines are easily moved or pulled.

This is a native vine and there is no problem planting it. They are not considered invasive and I think many people confuse them with the oriental bittersweet which is rampant in some areas.

Neutral

On Dec 30, 2008, Robubba from Moulton, IA wrote:

Clovers are a very suitable companion partner, 'cuz they attract many beneficials. Clovers don't need a lot of sun which makes them work well with this.

Positive

On Oct 29, 2008, beagelgarden from Defiance, OH wrote:

The American Bittersweet is often confused with the Oriental Bittersweet. The Oriental Bittersweet is INVASIVE. Before removing or planting Bittersweet please look at this website ( ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/CT/invasives/asiatic_bittersweet.pdf ) to help you determine what Bittersweet you are removing or planting. American Bittersweet is native to America and is becoming endangered.

Negative

On Sep 2, 2006, ppatnaude from Amherst, MA (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is one of the most invasie plants there is in my area, they are terrible once it escapes it's planting area and is readily spred by birds. I would call it the mother of Boa Constrictors in the vine world. The seeds that make it appealing are the seeds of doom to native plants.

Positive

On Oct 24, 2003, bopjg from N. Vernon, IN (Zone 6b) wrote:

American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens ) is one of the most ornamental of our hardy northern vines. This deciduous, climbing woody vine is native to our area and is found growing in thickets, in stands of young trees, along fence rows and streams. It grows vigorously and can kill shrubs or small trees to which it becomes attached merely by tightly girdling stems and branches.
Bittersweet vines grow well in most soils, in full sun or shade, though adequate sun is important for fruit production. The only attention they generally need is a little pruning to keep the plants tidy or to limit their size. This may be done in late winter or early spring.
Bittersweet is a dioecious vine having male flowers on one plant and female on another; the two types must be near each other t... read more

Neutral

On Aug 31, 2001, jody from MD &, VA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Bears pea sized fruits containing scarlet seeds but both a male and female plant are required. Fully hardy but only fruits well in a warm climate.