Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens VS Asian bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus
Asian bittersweet can be an attractive climbing vine, especially to crafters. The problem is that it is an aggressive spreader AND it crosses easily with our native bittersweet, Celastrus scandens. When it crosses, the hybrids are fertile and tend to dominate the native species, which are now on the decline.
The two species can be difficult to tell apart. One way to distinguish them is that the native bittersweet carries its fruits and flowers mostly at the end of a stem. The Asian bittersweet has its fruits and flowers in the leaf axils.
Asian bittersweet was brought to this country in 1860 as an ornamental plant and for use in erosion control. By 2008 it covered nearly 9,000 acres of forest in the Southeast, including in Guilford County. The thick rooted plants can sprawl so far and so densely that they form a nearly impenetrable thicket.
What does this mean to me?
Invasive plants can alter the natural balance of ecosystems. They can choke out native plants and wildlife habitat, thus endangering the survival of animal and insect species. They displace rare plant species and reduce overall biodiversity, the greatest cause of species extinctions worldwide. Invasive plants also degrade the scenic, agricultural and recreational value of the land.
What you can do.
Consider using native alternatives to invasive species in your landscape.
Remove invasive plants that are already on your property. Left where they are, they will spread in your yard, to your neighbors, and to nearby forests and open areas.
Learn more about non-native invasive plants and share that information with your neighbors.
Native Herb Conservation Committee, The Herb Society of America, Inc.
Nonnative Invasive Plants
A non-native plant is one that is growing in a place other than its natural habitat. Non-native plants can refer to plants that grow naturally in North America but are out of their natural place as well as plants from other places around the globe.
Some non-native plants were introduced accidentally, while others were brought for food, forage, as medicines or ornamentals. Plant seeds have traveled long distances in hay stored as food for livestock on ships (and later discarded at a port); in packing materials used for china and other fragile goods; on hikers boots and horses hooves; on wind currents, and numerous other ways. Many plants are carried intentionally from one area to another, as favored foods or ornamental plants.
Not all non-native plants are undesirable. Those that take root quickly and begin to spread aggressively, establishing themselves over large areas and choking out other, more suitable and more desirable plants, are the ones generally called non-native invasive species. These plants often arrive without the natural predators that tend to keep plant communities in natural balance. Once established, they can be difficult to remove.
An estimated 3,500 species of non-native plants have escaped cultivation in the U.S. Some are now so widespread that they are mistaken as native. Many (think kudzu!) pose a serious threat to native plants and ecosystems. Others, such as Queen Anne’s Lace, are naturalized without interfering with the growth of native plants.
We Would Love to Have You Visit!
Permission to Use Materials
The right to download and store or output the materials in our website is granted for the user's personal use only, and materials may not be reproduced in any edited form. Any other reproduction, transmission, performance, display or editing of these materials by any means mechanical or electronic without our express written permission is strictly prohibited. Users wishing to obtain permission to reprint or reproduce any materials appearing on this site may contact us directly.
The North Carolina Unit is a member of the Herb Society of America, Inc. Visit the national organization at