Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet Vine Seed and Plants
(see-LAS-trus  SKAN-dens)
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Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet Vine picture Habitat Bloom Period Color Height  Moisture Plant Spacing Lifespan
Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet Vine picture  sun - 
light shade
May June fruit- Orange to red climbing 
3 - 20 feet
 average to moist 12 to 36 inches perennial vine

Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet Vine picture by cj
Click on picture for larger image
For other native wildflowers visit the seed/plant list

Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet potted plants are available, $5.00 each plus UPS shipping.  Please contact us by email for shipping costs on potted plants 
(please include your address and zipcode)
 Celastrus scandens seed
American Bittersweet Vine seed

approximate
number of seeds

approximate coverage
in square feet

1 packet -  sold out of seeds

35

1 ounce -   ---------

1,625 

1 pound - 

26,000 

    Celastrus scandens, American Bittersweet, is a twining climbing vine capable of a height of 20 feet but more normally found sprawling on fences.  American Bittersweet fruits are produced in July - October and are 1/4 inch round fruits in hanging clusters 2 to 4 inches long eventually splitting open to reveal bright red fleshy seeds for a showy Autumn.  American bittersweet prefers a sunny location and occurs throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The climbing growth habit of Celastrus scandens, American bittersweet makes it a valuable ornamental plant both outdoors and indoors. It is easily trained to climb walls, trellises, and fences. When added to existing shrub plantings, this twining vine produces excellent wildlife cover and aids in erosion control as well. The berry-like fruits of American Bittersweet are showy and provide winter food for wildlife species such as grouse, pheasant, quail, rabbit, and squirrel.  Celastrus scandens leaves are alternate, dark green, oval shaped, and turn yellow before dropping in the fall.  Native Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet vine is often confused with the weedy pest Oriental Bittersweet .  

     Other common names used for American Bittersweet include Climbing bittersweet, false bittersweet, climbing orange-root, fever-twig, fever-twitch, staff-vine, and jacob’s-ladder.  American bittersweet is valued for its glossy green summer foliage followed by orange and red fruits and seeds. The branches with colorful berries and arils are used in dry flower arrangements and winter decoration.

Alternate common names

Climbing bittersweet, false bittersweet, climbing orange-root, fever-twig, fever-twitch, staff-vine, jacob’s-ladder

 Uses

American bittersweet is valued for its glossy green summer foliage followed by orange and red fruits and seeds, and several landscape cultivars are commercially marketed.  The branches with colorful berries and arils are used in dry flower arrangements and winter decoration.  

 All parts of bittersweet are reported to be poisonous, but songbirds, ruffed grouse, pheasant, and fox squirrel eat the fruits.  The Menominee, Ojibwa, and Potawatami tribes of North American Indians have used the inner bark as an emergency food.  Various parts of the plant have been used in decoctions and ointments for a variety of ailments, including cough, intestinal, and gynecological problems. 

 Oil expressed from the seeds of the related species Celastrus paniculatus, a shrub native to India, has been used medicinally in India for centuries.  The oil is used to increase memory and facilitate learning.  It induces a feeling of well being and has reported aphrodisiac effects. 

 Description

General: Bittersweet family (Celastraceae).  Native dioecious or partly dioecious, semi-shrubs or semi-shrubby vines, forming low, thick stands from root suckers, clambering and climbing onto fences and trees, broadly twining and sometimes reaching nearly 20 meters high, the older stems becoming several cm broad; roots long, woody, bright-orange, creeping, about 2-3 cm thick, with a thick, red or yellowish-red bark (the medicinal part).  Leaves are deciduous, alternate, spiral or somewhat 2-ranked by the twisting of the stem, glabrous, 5-12 cm long and about half as wide, oblong-elliptic to ovate or obovate, acuminate at the tip, with small, rounded teeth, the petioles 1-2 cm long.  Flowers are unisexual (with either the stamens or the ovary abortive) or rarely bisexual, fragrant, small (ca. 4 mm wide), greenish-white or greenish-yellow, in clusters at the branch tips, usually with 14-44 flowers per cluster.  Fruits are orange to yellow-orange, globose, 7-10 mm wide, with 2-4 cells; seeds 1-2 in each cell, each seed enclosed in a bright scarlet fleshy aril.

 The related and invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb.) is becoming more common than American bittersweet and is attaining a similar geographic range.  The following contrast gives information for their separation:

 1. Leaves mostly oblong-elliptic to ovate, 1.8-2.6 times longer than wide; flowers and fruits 6 or more in panicles (irregularly branching) at the branch tips.    Celastrus scandens

 2. Leaves mostly obicular to suborbicular or broadly obovate, 1.2-1.7 times longer than wide; flowers and fruits 2-3 in cymes (regularly branching) in the leaf axils below the branch tips.   Celastrus orbiculatus

 Distribution

American bittersweet grows over the eastern two-thirds of the US (except for Florida), on the western edge of the range from Texas and Oklahoma to Wyoming and Montana, and across southeastern Canada from Saskatchewan to New Brunswick. 

 Adaptation

In rich or swampy woods, or appearing weedy in disturbed areas in thickets, roadsides, field edges, fences, and other disturbed sites.  This species flowers in late May through June and produces fruits in June through November.  

 Establishment

The seeds are widely distributed by birds, which accounts for the tendency of the species to occur in disturbed habitats.  Prechilling apparently is required to break dormancy -- seeds stratified for 90 days at 5º C., then planted in soil maintained at 20-25º, germinated at 71%.

 Management

American bittersweet vines can girdle and kill live plants used for support, but the native species rarely presents a problem because of its relative lack of abundance.  Oriental bittersweet, however, is displacing the native species where they have begun to occur together, and there is some indication that they are hybridizing.  The non-native species grows over vegetation and kills other plants by preventing photosynthesis, girdling, and uprooting by force of its massive weight.  Its seeds are more numerous and more desirable by birds, thus more widely dispersed and they have a higher germination rate.  The non-native species has higher pollen viability and also is more efficient in photosynthesis.  Further, oriental bittersweet has been planted along roadsides for erosion control, it is propagated for horticulture and sold commercially, and its seeds are spread to waste places through disposal of dried flower arrangements

    Celastrus scandens, American bittersweet grows wild in woodlands, rocky slopes, along bluffs, and along fence rows from Georgia to Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and west to Ontario, Manitoba, and Wyoming.  Plant Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet seed outside in fall/winter or give cold pretreatment.

Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet potted plants are available, $5.00 each plus UPS shipping

 Celastrus scandens seed
American Bittersweet Vine seed

approximate
number of seeds

approximate coverage
in square feet

1 packet -  $2.50 + shipping

35

1 ounce -   -----------

1,625 

1 pound - 

26,000 

The map below shows areas where Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet vine grows wild but it can be planted and will grow over a wider area than shown.  USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 9.

State Distributional Map for CESC

Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Vermont
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Alabama
Arkansas
Connecticut
Delaware

Use the chart below for shipping charges on Celastrus scandens Bittersweet flower seeds, to order copy the order form or email questions, comments & orders to john@easywildflowers.com 

The minimum seed order amount is $10, this can be a combination of different seeds.
sold out of ounce quantities of bittersweet seeds, small packets are available

subtotal for flower seeds 

shipping charge for seeds

seed orders up to  $20.00    =    $3.00 shipping
$20.01 - $50.00    =    $4.00 shipping
$50.01-$100.00    =    $5.00 shipping

over $100.00    =    5 % of subtotal

Softwood cuttings can be taken from terminal (tip) shoots that are soft and immature with two or more nodes (the point on the stem where a leaf is attached). The 3-5 inch cuttings, with leaves attached should be taken in midsummer, cutting squarely across the stem just beneath a node. Remove the leaves on the lower half of the cutting and dip the base of the cutting into rooting powder. Rooting powder can be purchased at a nursery under a variety of names, for example: Hormex, Hormodin, Hormo-Root, Rootone, etc. The best method of application is to spread a little of the powder on a sheet of plastic or wax paper, dip the base of each cutting in this, then shake off any surplus and plant the cutting immediately. The cuttings can be rooted in potting mix of 2 parts coarse perlite to 1 part sphagnum peat.

The double-pan technique is an easy and successful way of rooting cuttings. Use two flower pots, at least 4 inches deep with one so much larger than the other that when the smaller pot is set inside the larger one, there is a 2-inch space between their rims on all sides. The inner pot should be clay, the other pot plastic. Plug the hole in the bottom of the smaller pot with a cork and set the pot inside the bigger one so their upper rims are level. Fill the space between the two pots with potting mix and insert the cuttings. Water with a fine spray and fill the inner pot with water.

Cover the cuttings and pots with a clear plastic bag and place them in bright, but indirect light. No further overhead watering is necessary. Sufficient water should pass through the porous sides of the small pot to maintain the potting mix in a moist condition. Keep the small pot full of water. If moisture collects on the inside of the plastic bag, open it to provide a bit of ventilation. The cuttings will produce roots in 2 to 5 weeks. Plant them outdoors in a protected location, as soon as they're rooted.

Hardwood cuttings, on the other hand, should be taken during winter when the plants have no foliage. Include at least two nodes in the 6 to 10-inch cuttings. Make the cuts squarely across the stem just below a node, then make a slant cut ½ to 1 inch above a node. The difference in cuts will aid in distinguishing between the top and base of the cuttings when planting them. Dip the basal or square cut end in rooting powder and plant them in a plastic flower pot filled with the perlite and peat potting mix. Water the mix, then enclose the pot in a sealed clear plastic bag. Place the pot outdoors on the north side next to the house and check periodically to see that the pot hasn't tipped over or dried out. Frozen condensation inside the sealed plastic bag is an indication that moisture is present. Add a handful of snow to the pot and reseal if the bag is dry. The cuttings will be rooted by May and producing leaves. Remove the plastic bag but leave the pot in the shade for another week before transplanting the rooted cuttings to a selected site.

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Celastrus scandens, American Bittersweet Plant distribution map complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
  (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.