Celastrus orbiculatus Cowles

Family:     Celastraceae (Staff and Spindle vine family)

Duration:  Perennial

Blooming: May


Oriental bittersweet

Celastrus orbiculatus  Thunb.

Flowers: are small, greenish-yellow flowers which form in leaf axils (where the leaves meet the stem). Each flower has five petals, sepals, and stamens. 

Leaves: glossy, round, finely toothed leaves with abruptly pointed tips that alternate along the stem. Leaf arrangement is alternate.

Fruit: round green fruit in leaf axils 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

Ideal Conditions: Grows in nearly all soil and light availability conditions from dry to moist soil.

Season Change: young reddish-brown vines turn into gray, spotted or ridged woody vines and wrap tree trunks as they grow into the canopy. The fall foliage turns a brilliant yellow.

Celastrus orbiculatus by sten porse
Celastrus orbiculatus fruit indiana dunes

Comments: Oriental Bittersweet is an aggressive liana that strangles trees and shrubs as it rapidly dominates the forests of Northwest Indiana. It does not have tendrils as many other vines do, but wraps itself around the host plant. Native to Asia, Oriental Bittersweet was brought to North America as an ornamental around 1860.  It very closely resembles the native, American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens). The latter produces flowers in panicles (at the stem tips) whereas the exotic produces flowers in the leaf axils.

photo by Nathanael Pilla

photo by Sten Porse

Celastrus orbiculatus indiana dunes

photo by Marshall W. D'Arcy

photo by Marshall W. D'Arcy

Species Present and Exotic