Another Native Vine & Its Invasive Cousin

Related Posts:
Local Native Vines
Native Vines in Our Yard

American Bittersweet Vine ~ Celastrus scandens
I just found a small 3 foot long American Bittersweet Vine this week at a local park. I wasn't sure if this was in fact the native American Bittersweet or the invasive Oriental Bittersweet Vine (Celastrus orbiculatus) because both exist in Central Minnesota.

One problem with the native and invasive species co-existing is that "it appears that successful cross-pollination occurs in the wild, leading some to fear that the native genotype will soon disappear". (University of Rhode Island Control Fact sheet)

An excellent Fact Sheet by the USGS (no longer available) on identifying the differences between the American and Oriental Bittersweet is worth referencing for identification and control.

Some of the things to look for for the Fact Sheet Key are the flower pollen color, leaf shape, fruit color, the flower and fruit position on the stem and the number of seeds in each fruit.

The vine I found this week is the native American Bittersweet. Pictured in the first photo, the berries are clustered at the end of the vine instead of being arranged along the stem as in the Oriental Bittersweet.

It also has longer than wide shaped leaves, the Oriental Bittersweet often has elliptical shaped leaves (but not always).

The other factor that leads me to believe this is the native one is that it was relatively small. The Oriental Bittersweet is a much more rapid grower and can girdle trees as it wraps around the trunks.

American Bittersweet flowers from late May through June in Central Minnesota. The following yellow-orange seed capsules are very showy as they dry and the outer skin peels back like the petals of a flower. They can persist throughout the winter on the vine providing some colorful interest.

All of the photos on this posting are of the native American Bittersweet.

For photos of the invasive Oriental Bittersweet go to the Invasive Plant Atlas.