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  Oriental bittersweet  

Department of Natural Resources

Illinois Exotic Species:
Oriental bittersweet or round-leaved bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus


Oriental bittersweet is a deciduous, woody vine that can grow 50 or more feet into the canopy of forest trees. Its vines, which may grow five inches or more in diameter, produce alternate, oval leaves which turn yellow in the fall. The small, yellow-green flowers produced from May through June are inconspicuous. Capsules open in the fall to reveal the bright red flesh which covers the seeds. Fruits are produced along the stem in contrast to the native bittersweet which produces fruit only at the tips of the stems. The fruits are eaten and dispersed by birds, and people also disperse this plant by using it in dried flower arrangements and discarding the seeds. The twining growth habit of oriental bittersweet constricts trees, its dense foliage reduces sunlight, and the extensive growth in tree canopies makes trees top heavy and more susceptible to wind damage. Oriental bittersweet grows in scattered locations throughout the state.

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