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CELASTRUS orbiculatus

Image of Celastrus orbiculatus

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Celastraceae

Botanical Name

CELASTRUS orbiculatus

Plant Common Name

Oriental Bittersweet

General Description

The showy orange and pink fruits of Oriental bittersweet are alluringly pretty in fall and a harvest time favorite, but don't be fooled by its beauty. This rampant woody vine from eastern Asia is considered a noxious weed in many parts of the world. In its natural habitat it twines up woodland trees in open forests and margins. Specimens were first brought to North America in the mid to late Nineteenth Century and escaped from cultivation. Now it is found in woodlands across much of eastern North America where it competes with the equally showy but smaller American bittersweet vine, Celastrus scandens.

Oriental bittersweet displays oval, medium green leaves in spring which turn yellow in autumn. Its inconspicuous green flowers bloom in summer and branches of ornamental fruits open in fall all along the stems. The yellow-orange capsules burst open to show pinkish red seeds. The fruits are obscured by the foliage until it falls. Celastrus is dioecious, meaning that each plant has either male or female flowers, never both. Male and female plants are needed for fruit production but only female vines produce fruit. Bittersweet fruits are an early winter food source for song and gamebirds, which effectively distribute their seeds near trees or along fencerows.

Part of this vine’s success is due to its ability to grow just about anywhere. Full sun, shade, moist areas or moderately dry areas can all accommodate Oriental bittersweet. It is a rampant, vigorous grower that demands strong support of tall metal fences or sturdy arbors. It can reach great heights and twine all the way to the top of tall tree canopies. Those who want to try to grow it must keep it rigorously pruned and maintained. If regularly hard-pruned it can be trained to adopt a shrub-like habit.

This species is not recommended for garden use in North America . The native Celastrus scandens is equally as pretty, tamer, and preferable on all fronts. Oriental bittersweet will hybridize with the American species in the wild. These wild hybrids are also rampantly vigorous.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

  • Plant Type

    Vine/Liana

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    40'-55' / 12.2m - 16.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer

  • Native To

    Eastern Asia, China, Japan, Korea

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Drought, Soil Compaction

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Green, Light Green

  • Fruit Color

    Orange, Gold, Magenta

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Yes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes