IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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The most distinctive characteristic of this woody vine are the orange-red seed capsules; they are quite decorative and attractive. The flowers, as revealed in the photograph above, are not very showy because of their green color. Another species in this genus, Celastrus orbiculatus (Oriental Bittersweet), is less often encountered in Illinois. It was introduced from East Asia as an ornamental vine and has naturalized in a few wooded areas of the state. Because Oriental Bittersweet is a robust woody vine up to 60' long, there is some concern that it may become an invasive species. This has already occurred in some of the NE states. American Bittersweet differs from Oriental Bittersweet by the shape of its leaves, margins of its flower petals, and type of inflorescence. Specifically, American Bittersweet has ovate leaves with gradually tapering tips, flower petals with undulate or jagged margins, and short side branches with terminal panicles of flowers. Oriental Bittersweet, on the other hand, has ovate-orbicular leaves with short broad tips, flower petals with smooth margins, and non-terminal panicles of flowers that develop from the axils of the alternate leaves. Furthermore, the flower petals of Oriental Bittersweet are usually more narrow than those of American Bittersweet.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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