oriental bittersweet USDA PLANTS SYMBOL: CEOR7
Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb.
Synonym(s): Asiatic bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet is a deciduous, climbing, woody vine that can grow to lengths of 60 ft. (18.3 m). The alternate, elliptical leaves are light green in color and 2-5 in. (5-13 cm) long. Small, inconspicuous, axillary flowers develop in the spring. Fruits are round and green when young and ripen to yellow and split to reveal showy, scarlet berries that persist into winter. It closely resembles American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), but can be distinguished because American bittersweet has flowers and fruits at the ends of branches, rather than in the axils of the leaves. Oriental bittersweet is commonly found through the southern Appalachians in old home sites, fields, and road edges. Some shade tolerance allows it to also grow in open forests. Prolific vine growth allows it to encircle trees and girdle them. Vines can completely cover other vegetation and shade, out-compete and kill even large trees. It can be dispersed widely and quickly due to birds eating the berries and spreading the seeds. Oriental bittersweet was introduced from China around 1860 as an ornamental. It has also been shown to hybridize with American bittersweet, potentially leading to a loss of genetic identity.

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