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Home > Weeds > Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental Bittersweet, Asian Bittersweet—Celastrus orbiculatus

An alien invasive woody plant, Oriental bittersweet kills or weakens native trees and shrubs and is displacing native American bittersweet.

Oriental bittersweet infestation Oriental bittersweet leaves Oriental bittersweet during winter
Oriental bittersweet grows as a climbing vine or as a shrub. It kills native plants by growing over them, blocking sunlight, and choking stems and trunks. The glossy, bright green leaves are elliptical, 2 to 5 inches long, and finely toothed. Leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. Berries persist throughout the winter. Seeds are spread widely by birds and people using the branches for decorative arrangements.
fruiting Oriental bittersweet closeup of Oriental bittersweet fruit American bittersweet
Oriental bittersweet produces lots of fruit in many clusters along the stems. Fruit are round and green when young. Stems have blunt thorns. Mature fruits split to reveal three red berries, each containing two or three seeds. American bittersweet produces fruit in fewer, larger clusters only at the branch tips. American bittersweet has no thorns.

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[Photos, left to right: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University,; James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,; Chris Evans, River to River CWMA,; James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,; James R. Allison, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,; Chris Evans, River to River CWMA,]

It is the policy of the State of Maine to minimize reliance on pesticides. The Maine Department of Agriculture and the Maine IPM Council encourage everyone to practice integrated pest management and to use pesticides only as a last resort. The mention of pesticides in the fact sheets linked to these pages does not imply an endorsement of any product. Be sure that any product used is currently registered and follow all label directions.