Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is native to China, Korea, and Japan and it was introduced for ornamental uses in the 1860s. The species is often associated with old home sites from which it has escaped into surrounding natural areas. Asiatic bittersweet is still widely planted and maintained as an ornamental vine, further promoting its spread.
Asiatic bittersweet is a deciduous, climbing, woody vine that can grow to lengths of up to 60 foot Fruits are round and green when young and ripen to yellow and split to reveal showy red/orange berries that persist into winter. Asiatic bittersweet is commonly found in old house sites, fields, and road edges. Some shade tolerance allows it to also grow in open forests. Roots are orange like the fruit when pulled out.
It can be dispersed widely and quickly due to birds eating the berries and spreading the seeds. People also use the vine for decorative purposes then discard them into the natural landscape which leads to further spread. It also expands vegetatively through root suckers.
Asiatic bittersweet is a vigorously growing vine that climbs over and smothers vegetation which may die from excessive shading or breakage. When bittersweet climbs high up on trees the increased weight can lead to uprooting and blow-over during high winds and heavy snowfalls. In addition, Asiatic bittersweet is displacing our native American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) through competition and hybridization. Look-alike: Asiatic bittersweet closely resembles American bittersweet, but can be distinguished by the American bittersweet having flowers and fruits at the ends of branches rather than in the axils of the leaves. American bittersweet also produces fewer fruits.
Asiatic bittersweet is most effectively controlled by recognizing its appearance early and removing isolated plants before they begin to produce seed. Hand pulling is effective in small infestations. Remove the entire root section or re-sprouting will occur. Manually cutting and removing vines can also be effective as long as care is taken to properly bag and dispose of seeds and plants. The 'cut-and-dab' herbicide method may be useful in deterring more profaned growth. Foliar spray is not recommended as it can be harmful to the surrounding floura and fauna. See the invasive removal page for how to carry out these methods. Any removal within 100 feet of wetland resource areas, including certified vernal pools, or within 200 feet of a perennial stream may require approval from the Concord Natural Resources Commission. Please contact the Division of Natural Resources before you begin.
The following native plants can serve as a good replacement for bittersweet in a garden: