Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 08, 2014

From: Lexington, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Vines
Title: Distinguishing native Celastrus scandens from non-native C. Orbiculatus from Lexington MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Plants, I maintain a wildflower garden with the Lexington Field and Garden Club in Lexington, Massachusetts. Every year, I pull up sprouts of Celastris orbiulatis. I want to plant some Celastris scandens, but I want to be certain I can distinguish between the interloper and the native. I have observed that the roots of the oriental bittersweet are bright orange, unlike anything else in the garden. Are the roots of the native bittersweet similarly orange, or can I use the root color as a distinguishing characteristic? Many thanks for any help you can give me.

ANSWER:

From our Native Plant Database, here is what our webpage says about Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet) :

"This native species is being replaced in the Northeast by the more aggressive Asiatic Bittersweet (C. orbiculatus) which has escaped from cultivation. It has flowers and showy scarlet fruit arising from the axils of the leaves."

This article from the Missouri Botanical Garden has more information on the culture of the plant, but no mention of root colors. From Dave's Garden, here is a paragraph describing the difference between the native and the non-native plants:

"Here's how you tell them apart:
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. "

Please read this article from About.com on the subject. This and several other of the articles we read mentioned the problem that the two types of vine are hybridizing with each other and, of course, the hybrids are adopting the worst characteristics of the non-native invasives.

 

From the Image Gallery


American bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

American bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

American bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native pomegranate failing to fruit from Highland Village TX
October 20, 2012 - Last spring I planted a pomegranate tree (type: Wonderful) which is supposed to produce edible fruit. It had 5 or 6 absolutely beautiful blooms, but each of them dropped off and no sign of fruit. Is...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Carrotwood tree in Toluca Lake CA
June 25, 2009 - My Carrotwood tree leaves are turning yellow and curling down, Why? Also due to a bad trim, the outer limbs are dying. Can you tell me what is wrong? It is an old tree and I would like to save it!
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves on non-native jasmine from Austin
June 25, 2012 - Hi, I have a mature jasmine plant in the ground in a very sunny courtyard which gets watered daily. The lower leaves are turning yellow and am wondering if this is too much water for it. The top lea...
view the full question and answer

Can non-native red-tip photinia be burned in fireplace from Lilburn GA?
April 20, 2011 - Can I burn red tip photinia in my fireplace?
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree in California
May 02, 2012 - A medium-size tree with shiny green leaves toward the bottom and garnet red ones toward the top of the tree. The leaves are narrow with saw-toothed edges. There are clustered small white flowers with ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.