bittersweet vine

marymacDecember 9, 2006

Hi there...I live in zone 5 in Ohio. I have been on the look out for bittersweet vine for quite some time now. I have only been able to find it in southern ohio previously. I no longer go there and I'm wondering if anyone else knows if it does grow up north here. I am between Akron and Cleveland. Also if there is a certain type of area I should look for. Thanks ... Marymac

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I know it will grow in your area, but did you know it is on the invasive species list, and that it should be removed from all properties? many of the popular plants found in nurseries are on that list, including burning bushes, euyonomous plants, etc. please try to check out that list before buying plants for your woodland.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 5:37PM
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Not all bittersweet are non-native. But you must have a male and a female plant for the berries. Native bittersweet has been placed on some of the protected lists in areas it is native in. Most of the bittersweet seen along roadsides is a non-native that has naturalized.

As a vine, it and any other vine can be considered invasive by some because they do have a tendence to "Vine" Also remember what is invasive in one area may be native in another. Natives can be invasive if the conditions are right for spreading.

Invasive has become a catch all term for plants that look weedy rather than the actual defination of a plant that is a thug and takes over, either by rooting or seed, an area larger than intended or where it is not native.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 12:20AM
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Thanks for your post, maifleur. While it is admirable to be conscious of the impact of potentially invasive plants, too many jump to conclusions without understanding the complete issue. American bittersweet, Celastrus scandens, is a valuable native plant and not to be confused with the weedy and rampant Asian bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus. Marymac, the USDA plants data base shows American bittersweet present in all but one county of Ohio, so you should be able to find it in a naturalized setting. It is listed as a raparian plant, so an uncultivated, woody area by streams is your best bet. Be sure you have permission from property owners before gathering (or even trespassing).

True invasives are those plants defined by the USDA as having a detrimental economic or environmental impact in that they interfer with agricultural practices or overtake native plantings. This varies siginificantly from location to location, sometimes even within the same state. There is not a single list of invasive species that can be applied uniformly throughout the country. Each state has their own and in some cases it is broken down further into regional or county lists. And not all species of any single genus are culpable, as is the case with the bittersweet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ohio's invasive plants

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 8:43AM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

There are two species of bittersweet found in Ohio. The one that is most common is Asiatic Bittersweet, which is an non-native vine that is extremely invasive. I definitely wouldn't plant Asiatic bittersweet anywhere. It is invasive in the gardening sense - it will spread agressively throughout the garden, will completely cover trees, and is tough to get rid of. It is also very invasive in the ecologic sense - it takes over native habitats, dispacing native plants and animals. If you plant it in your garden and it produces fruit, birds will eat the fruit and drop the seeds all over your area. Your garden vine could be the source for hundred of vines that will seriously damage natural areas miles away from your home.

The native American Bittersweet is not invasive in the ecologic sense. It is a native plant that fits into its place in the ecosystem. It may climb over a tree or two, but native vines are an important part of native forests, providing fruit, flowers, and adding habitat diveristy to forests. Far too many people think that managing a woodland should include cutting all of the vines off of the trees, and destroy an important part of the forest in the process. I have not grown American Bittersweet in a garden, but it might be invasive in the gardening sense - it might grow a little too rampantly for some gardens and may be hard to stop from spreading.

American Bittersweet is pretty rare. I have seen it only once in the wild. You can distiguish American Bittersweet from Asiatic Bittersweet based on the arrangement of the flowers and fruit. Take a look at a field guide or website to tell them apart. This is the time of year to find bittersweet of either species. The husks surrounding the berries have opened making the vines very easy to see. If you're looking for Bittersweet I'd recommend drving a few roads in farm country. You should be able to find Asiatic Bittersweet in your area. I think you'll have no problem finding a farmer who will be more than happy to let you cut all you care to take. I wouldn't worry about cutting some for decorations from roadside tangles - you could not possibly have any negative impact on the health of the vines and even if you did that would be a good thing. Be careful about using the berries as outdoor decoration because this is apparently one of the ways that the vine invades new areas. If you find roadside bittersweet it will almost certainly be Asiatic, not native American Bittersweet.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 11:46AM
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As a general rule,I would definately refrain from using bittersweet berries as holiday decorations.I've never found the native species in the wild in my area,whereas the oriental one smothers hundreds of square acres.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 3:47PM
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vicki448(z5 NEOhio)

I live in NE Ohio and we do have the native bittersweet growing here. I have only found 5 plants. They are not the oriental bittersweet. We have extensive wooded areas around here and they are not common. Maybe you could locate one at a nursery. You do need male & female. I think Schumaker's carries the seed for them. They do make beautiful x-mas decorations. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 11:33AM
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Sometimes native bittersweet is not that easy to spot. I have lived here 4 years now and started a woodland garden in a patch of open woodland that is across the front yard from my front window. One day I was pulling some of the many maple seedlings that come up in there and noticed some berries on the ground. Sure enough I looked up and 40 feet up a tall hemlock there was bittersweet growing in the tree tops. All that you see going up the side of the tree is a single trunk hugging vine that is about 3" across. I wanted to identify mine so I looked at it with binoculars as the fruit and leaves were so high. Here are some sites I used to help me and some exerpts from them on telling them apart.
NOTE: Because Oriental bittersweet can be confused with our native American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) which is becoming less and less common, it is imperative that correct identification be made before any control is begun. American bittersweet produces flowers (and fruits) in single terminal panicles at the tips of the stems; flower panicles and fruit clusters are about as long as the leaves; the leaves are nearly twice as long as wide and are tapered at each end. Oriental bittersweet produces flowers in small axillary clusters that are shorter than the subtending leaves and the leaves are very rounded. Comparing the two, American bittersweet has fewer, larger clusters of fruits whereas Oriental bittersweet is a prolific fruiter with lots and lots of fruit clusters emerging at many points along the stem. Unfortunately, hybrids of the two occur which may make identification more difficult.
The most reliable way to distinguish our native species from the introduced one is by the location of the flowers and fruits on female plants. In American bittersweet, the clusters of flowers and resulting fruits occur at the tips of the branches. Oriental bittersweet produces its smaller clusters of flowers and fruits along the stems where the leaves are attached. This arrangement results in a greater number of fruits being produced. Also, the capsules of C. scandens are usually more orange than those of C. orbiculata. Other than the difference in the location of flowers and fruits, the plants are much the same in appearance with brownish stems dotted with small, light spots (the lenticels) and shiny, green, slightly toothed leaves that become yellow in late fall. The leaves are variable in size and shape, but those of American bittersweet are generally longer than broad while those of Oriental bittersweet are more rounded in outline giving rise to the species name, orbiculata.
Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 1:01PM
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This was an interesting and informative thread. Thanks to all.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 9:39PM
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