Species Spotlight – Celastrus scandens

Celastrus scandens

It's getting harder to find the straight native species

ArcheWild receives dozens of inquiries every year for American bittersweet, Celastrus scandens.  But until recently, we’ve had a terribly difficult time finding vines that appear to be free from their Asian cousins’ influence.  At long last, we’ve discovered a few isolated patches, far from roads or development, that we consider clean.  There are several websites that explain the differences between American and Oriental bittersweet, but we find that good pictures of their different stages of development are helpful.

The main distinguishing characteristics of American bittersweet include:

  • A short, stout vine with a single trunk
  • Does not seem to root along the stems
  • Very large, grape-like fruit clusters
  • Each fruit is about 3-4 times the volume of Oriental bittersweet
  • When the fruit are green or yellow, its easy to mistake for an immature Crataegus
  • Most often found on cliffs or on old fences, far away from any shade
  • All fruit clusters are at the end of a twig
  • The fruit capsule valves are a distinct orange, not yellow

Soil requirements seem to be well-drained, but moist, sandy soils like those you might find in a Coastal Plain ecosystem, or a prairie.  Their main roots are fairly shallow, down to 6-9″ deep so they likely cannot be allowed to dry out.

ArcheWild will begin offering Celastrus scandens starting in 2018 and it should quickly become a standard inventory item available in several sizes.  USDA range map below.


All plant images © 2012-2017 ArcheWild.