Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental_Bittersweet_jpgThe Celastraceae family commonly called the Staff-tree family consists of 88 genera.  The branches of Oriental Bittersweet, or related species, with colorful berries are often brought indoors to brighten up a mantelpiece or holiday table. Bittersweet’s method of climbing presents an interesting problem in that once the vine has wrapped itself snugly around a branch of a shrub or tree, there is no room for either to expand in circumference as it grows.  The usual result is that the vine presses into the branch and the wood of the branch begins to grow around the vine, eventually embedding it.  When the vine dies and falls away, the spiraling scar remains as a clue to its former presence. In late summer and fall, the adult female Two-marked Treehopper (Enchenopa binotata) makes a small slit on the bark of the Bittersweet vine in which to lay their eggs.  They then cover over the area with a sticky white substance that looks and feels like marshmallows.  The substance is placed over the eggs in layers and remains this way through winter.  The young hatch the following summer and feed on the juices of the new twigs.  The insects line up in the same direction along the fine, a trait that may have evolved to make them look like thorns.


Round-Leaved Bittersweet, Asiatic Bittersweet


Celastrus orticulatus






Woody vine


Climbing to several yards long


Early August to November


Quebec to Texas ~ Throughout Delaware Watershed


Early May to June


Twining green stems ~ Leaves alternate, rounded, gold in Autumn ~ Flowers greenish, loose bunches at ends of shoots ~ Masses of yellow fruit, orange-covered seeds, spherical, grow along side the twigs ~ Berries remain on branches into winter after leaves have fallen