|Monday Melange: American Bittersweet|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 29 October 2007|
American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is a deciduous twining woody vine that is prized for its ornamental berries that appear in autumn and persist through the winter months. Its range extends throughout most of the eastern US as far west as Montana and Texas and as far south as Georgia.
American bittersweet is hardy between USDA zones 3 and 8 and is a member of the Bittersweet family (Celastraceae). The greenish yellow to white flowers appear in late spring and are quite showy, but the orange-red berries appearing in September are the main attraction. The berries attract birds and the orange berries are quite stunning against a snowy backdrop or encased in ice. The leaves turn yellow in fall.
American bittersweet produces more flowers and more berries when planted in full sun than in partial sun. It grows to a height of 15 to 20 feet and will twine around tree trunks, lampposts, fences, arbors, and similar structures. Avoid planting it near shrubs and small trees because as a twining vine it may girdle or overtake them.
In the wild, American bittersweet grows along woodland edges and hedgerows, and in thickets. It naturalizes easily, primarily by root suckers and self-seeding (thanks to the birds), so keep an eye on it. American bittersweet should not be confused with the Asiatic species, Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), which is extremely invasive, especially in New England.
American bittersweet is listed in New York State as exploitably vulnerable, which means that people take it from the wild (for instance to use as fall decorations) depleting the natural population.
Photo source: www.phyplt.ipfw.edu