Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb.

Asian bittersweet, Asiatic bittersweet

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Asian bittersweet was introduced from its native East Asia in 1860 and now grows in much of the eastern United States. This aggressive vine tolerates both high sun and deep shade, and can quickly overtop and girdle trees. This species has long been regarded as an attractive ornamental. Its abundant clusters of yellow seeds surrounded by a fleshy red aril are often used to make festive wreaths and flower arrangements. Seeds are spread when the plants are later thrown away. Birds also relish the fruits and disperse the seeds far and wide.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, forests, meadows and fields, shrublands or thickets

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a liana (i.e., a woody plant with a vine-like growth form)
Leaf type
the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf blade length
40–70 mm
Leaf blade width
35–55 mm
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Bark texture
  • the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
  • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
Twig winter color
brown
Bud scale number
there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Collateral buds
    there are no collateral buds on the sides of the branches
    Leaf scar arrangement
    there is one leaf scar per node on the stem or twig
    Superposed buds
    there are no superposed buds on the branch
    Winter bud distribution
    the winter buds are distributed fairly evenly along the twig
    Winter bud scales
    the winter bud is perulate (partially or completely covered with one or more scales)
    Winter bud stalks
    the winter buds have no stalks
  • Flowers
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Hypanthium present
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Inflorescence position
    the inflorescences grow on the twigs
    Inflorescence type
    • the inflorescence is a dichasial cyme (an axis with a terminal flower, below it a pair of branches, each with a terminal flower, these branches may in turn each have a pair of branches and so on)
    • the inflorescence is a monochasial cyme (an axis with a terminal flower, below it a branch with a terminal flower, this branch may itself have a branch and so on)
    Number of pistils
    • 0
    • 1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble leaves in color and texture
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Stamen number
    5
    Stamen position relative to petals
    the stamens are lined up with the sepals (antesepalous)
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Fruit tissue origin
    there are no flower parts that form part of the fruit
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is clear and watery
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a liana (i.e., a woody plant with a vine-like growth form)
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf has no hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    NA
    Leaf blade length
    40–70 mm
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is orbicular (roughly circular, as wide as long)
    • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is coriaceous (has a firm, leathery texture)
    • the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the main veins of the leaf blade are pinnate (the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the main central vein) and non-arcuate (not arched towards the leaf tip)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base toward the tip
    Leaf blade width
    35–55 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the plant is broad-leaved (with broadly flattened leaf blades)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    there are no nectaries on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk shape
    the leaf stalk is not flattened
    Leaf teeth
    the leaf blade margin is crenate (with rounded teeth) or crenulate (with tiny, rounded teeth)
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant, or they fall off as the leaf expands
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • forests
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • shrublands or thickets
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor, or it has an unpleasant or repellant odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    • the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
    • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    NA
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Lenticels on twigs
    there are no lenticels on the twigs, or they are very hard to see
    Pith shape
    the outline of the pith in a twig is roughly round
    Pith type
    the pith inside the twig is solid, completely filled with spongy tissue
    Short shoots
    there are no peg- or knob-like shoots present
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hairs
    the twigs have few or no hairs on them
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig scales
    there are no scales on the twig surface
    Twig winter color
    brown
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present, invasive, prohibited
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present, invasive, prohibited
New Hampshire
present, invasive, prohibited
Rhode Island
present, invasive
Vermont
present, invasive, prohibited

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
not applicable (S-rank: SNA)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Celastrus scandens:
flowers in a terminal array of 6 or more flowers, leaf blades usually more than 2 times as long as wide, and capsules usually with 0 or 1 seeds (vs. C. orbiculatus, with flowers in axillary arrays with 2 or 3 flowers, leaf blades usually less than 2 times as long as wide, and capsules usually with 5 or more seeds).

Family

Celastraceae

Genus

Celastrus

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb. E

Asian bittersweet. CT, Ma, Me, RI, VT. Forests and forest edges, roadsides, clearings, open rights-of-way.

1×2. Celastrus orbiculatus × Celastrus scandens This rare bittersweet hybrid is known from MA. It is best identified by its blending of characters (e.g., intermediate capsule and/or anther color) or by its combination 
of characters (e.g., leaf blades of one species and inflorescences of the other species). 
The outer and inner valves of the capsule often display an intermediate color between the parental species—yellow to orange-yellow in Celastrus orbiculatus, deep orange 
in C. scandens, and bright orange in the hybrid.