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Asian Bittersweet Celastrus orbiculata (Celastrus orbiculatus)


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Asian Bittersweet
credit: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service

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Alternate name: Oriental Bittersweet

Family: Celastraceae, Staff Tree view all from this family

Description Habit: introduced perennial vine; twining or trailing woody stems; may blanket a host plant.
Height: to 66 ft (20 m); stem diameter to 5 in (125 mm).
Leaf: alternate, glossy, elliptic to rounded, stalked, finely toothed, 2-5 in (50-125 mm) long; dark green becoming yellow in autumn.
Flower: small, pale green to yellow-green, 5-parted, with deeply 2-lobed petals; held in dangling clusters of 3-7 flowerheads in the leaf axils.
Fruit: spherical capsule, yellow to yellow-orange to tan, 0.5 in (12 mm) diameter; opening to 3 bright red berries; in dangling clusters of 2-3 (rarely, to 7) capsules, from leaf axils; persisting through winter.

Flower May to June.

Habitat Forest edges and openings, hedgerows, roadsides, fields, meadows, salt marshes, dunes, beaches, thickets, young forests.

Range Introduced from Asia; naturalized in eastern North America, from Quebec south to Georgia, northwest to Tennessee and Arkansas, northeast to Iowa, Wisconsin and Ontario; not reported in Missouri.

Discussion Also known as Asiatic bittersweet, round-leaved bittersweet, Oriental bittersweet, Oriental staff vine, climbing spindleberry. Considered weedy or invasive in most areas; listed as invasive, prohibited or noxious in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Vermont.

Before it was recognized as a destructive invasive species, Celastrus orbiculatus was planted along roadsides to help control soil erosion. Now it is recognized as a destructive invasive species, capable of strangling large trees by twining around their trunks.