FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME
Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb.
FAMILY NAME COMMON
FAMILY SCIENTIFIC NAME
Vine growning up trunk
Close-up of staminate flowers
Close-up of pistillate flowers
Close-up of fruits
Fruit in tree
Synonyms: Celastrus articulatus Thunb.
Celastrus orbiculatus is a dioecious (or polygamodioecious), perennial, deciduous vine that can grow up to 17.3 m (60 ft.). The stems of Celastrus orbiculatus have dark brown to brown striated bark. The twigs are dark brown, brown or light gray and are smooth and glabrous. Stems can reach 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter. The buds along the stem are axillary. The leaves are alternate and spiral evenly around the stem. They have a light green color and are widely elliptic, ovate to obovate, or circular. The flowers, which bloom in May to early June, are axillary in their position on the stem. There are 3-4 small greenish flowers per inflorescence and they are 1.8-4 mm (0.07-0.15 in.) long and 2.2-5.5 mm (0.1-0.2 in.) wide. The fruits of Celastrus orbiculatus are produced from July to October, are globose in shape, 6-9 mm (0.24-0.35 in.) long and 7-10 mm (0.28-0.4 in.) wide, and are yellow in color with a fleshy red aril surronding them. The fruits split open at maturity revealing 3 red-orange axils that contain the seeds. The yellow ovary walls begin to fall from the fruits after frost. Page References Bailey 631, Fernald 984, Gleason & Cronquist 328, Holmgren 308, Magee & Ahles 716, Newcomb 326. See reference section below for full citations.
Celastrus scandens L. (American bittersweet)
There is also hybrid between C. orbiculatus and C. scandens Celastrus orbiculatus is often confused with native bittersweet (C. scandens). The main feature that differentiates between the two plants is the location of the inflorescence. The inflorescence of C. scandens is located terminally and not axillary on the stems. Another feature (which is not always consistent) is the color of the ovary walls. In the fall the ovary walls of C. orbiculatus are yellow while those of C. scandens are a darker orange color that does not contrast as much with the red arils.
The fruits of Celastrus orbiculatus are most often dispersed by birds. If the plant is near water, the fruit can float and be moved downstream.
Celastrus orbiculatus is native to East Asia: Japan, Korea and China. It is presently reported from Louisiana to Maine and West to Iowa. It is established in all the states of New England.
HISTORY OF INTRODUCTION IN NEW ENGLAND
Celastrus orbiculatus was introduced to the United States from China as an ornamental around 1860. It reached Connecticut as early as 1916, and was collected from Massachusetts in 1919 and New Hampshire in 1938.
HABITATS IN NEW ENGLANDAbandoned Field,Agricultural Field,Coastal Beach or Dune,Early Successional Forest,Edge,Pasture,Planted Forest,Railroad Right-of-Way,Roadside,Salt Marsh,Utility Right-of-Way,Vacant Lot,Yard or Garden
Celastrus orbiculatus grows most profusely in the sun, but can tolerate dense shade. It grows in disturbed woodlands, fields, along the coast and in salt marshes. Fence rows (where birds sit and disperse the seeds), roadways and railroads are also prime habitat for C. orbiculatus. It will grow over anything that it comes upon.
Celastrus orbiculatus causes major damage to native plants by girdling. Mechanical damage of trees and other plants is also caused by the additional weight added onto the branches, causing the branches to break. The vigorous growth of the vine also shades other species. Another threat is the possibility of it displacing American bittersweet (C. scandens). Celastrus scandens does not exhibit this aggressive growth, but it can hybridize with C. orbiculatus. People often use C. orbiculatus for wreathes and floral arrangements in the fall because of its colorful fruits. Oftentimes, after the plant is used it thrown away, and the fruits are dispersed this way.
Illinois Natural History Survey
General description and management guidelines
Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet including management information
Documentation required: Photograph of habit, inflorescence.
Best time for documentation: Summer, fall.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Taxonomic information about the species
The PLANTS Database
Plant Conservation Alliance
General information and management
Department of Conservation and Recreation - Virginia Native Plant Society
The Nature Conservancy
Invasive Fact Sheet
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
General information including a photograph
Salisbury University Arboretum
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