American bittersweet Indiana

Family:     Celastraceae (Staff and Spindle vine family)

Duration:  Perennial

Blooming: May-June

Height: up to 900 cm (30 ft) 


American bittersweet

Celastrus scandens  L.

Flowers: are small, greenish-white flowers which form terminally on the end of branches in a panicle. Each flower has five petals, sepals, and stamens. The staminate (male) flowers and pistillate (female) flowers are on different plants.

Leaves: hairless, ovate shaped leaf that tapers to the tip.  The leaves can be up to 10 cm (4 in) long and finely serrated. Leaf arrangement is alternate.

Fruit: round green fruit located at the end of the stems (terminal) that turn yellow-orange in Autumn. The yellow-orange fruit splits open to reveal a red, fleshy coating around the seeds.

Sun:  Full sun to shade

American bittersweet indiana dunes

Comments:  American bittersweet is a liana that wraps around trees and shrubs or trails along the ground.  It does not have tendrils as many other vines do, but wraps itself around the host plant. It very closely resembles the invasive, non-native, Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). The native bittersweet produces flowers in panicles (at the stem tips) whereas the exotic produces flowers in the leaf axils.  

American bittersweet spreads through seed distribution.

Etymology: The specific epithet, scandens, is derived from the Greek word for "climbing or trailing". Celastrus is derived from the Greek word meaning "evergreen tree".  

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Celastrus scandens indiana dunes

Landscape: American bittersweet is a great addition to your landscape for hiding those large stumps and for fence cover. The autumn berries have been used as Christmas decorations.

Species Present and Native