Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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 Vines Questions

Fungus Spots on Native Bush Honeysuckle
December 03, 2010 - My native bush honeysuckle plants that I have along my back fence have leaves that are turning yellow with spots. It appears to be a type of fungus, but not powdery mildew. Any suggestions as to what ...
view the full question and answer

Identifying vine in Alabama
June 16, 2008 - I have a vine growing on my fence and I need help identifying it. The leaves are a large and medium green oval shaped and along the vine there are clusters of tiny(really tiny) flowers.They are a pale...
view the full question and answer

Native vine for a privacy fence in Austin, TX.
June 16, 2015 - I have a vacant lot in Greenshores that has two 6' iron fences. Neighbor planted some sort of vine that grows up and along fence for privacy, white flowers when in bloom, I assume its Jasmine? On ne...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Hyacinth Bean vine dying
June 17, 2008 - I live in Missouri and have tried to grow hyacinth bean. Mine drop leaves (after some yellow appears on on them)and the vine turns yellow, then withers to brown. Other places near me grow them beautif...
view the full question and answer

Will Virginia creeper harm brick walls in Las Vegas NM
May 19, 2013 - Will Virginia creeper harm brick walls in Las Vegas, New Mexico?
view the full question and answer

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