En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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 Invasive Plants Questions

Invasive phragmites from New Egypt NJ
July 30, 2011 - I have some wetland near a road. It has been taken over by phragmites. How is the best way to remove these grasses and add some diversity to this area. The area in question is approx. 100 by 30 feet.
view the full question and answer

Non-native Purple Hyacinth from Sylvania OH
May 21, 2012 - I am wondering if I plant a Purple Hyacinth Bean vine seed under a tree and allow it to grow up the tree trunk, will it kill the tree?
view the full question and answer

The invasiveness of Lupinus arboreus
January 23, 2009 - Hi, Researching Lupinus arboreus, I found that it is considered a serious invasive in Northern California coastal areas, especially Humbolt Bay. Scotch broom, of course, is an awful pest on the coast...
view the full question and answer

Invasive introduced sandburs in Maui, Hawaii
November 12, 2008 - I live in Maui, Hawaii & I have a serious problem with Cenchrus spinifex and/or Coastal sandbur grass (weed!) it is everywhere, in my flower beds, in my gravel yardscape. Every time I pull it out it d...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant plants from New Braunfels TX
August 31, 2012 - I have a 1/2 yard covered by a tree, shady. Bermuda grass previous owner planted has all turned brown this summer. I don't have lots of money to work with but would love to landscape that side of fr...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center