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Plant A Patch -- American Bittersweet ( Celastrus scandens)

By: Sandra Nelson; Images Sandy DeFoe

american bittersweet



American bittersweet can be counted on to give spring, summer, fall and winter beauty. This native vine, which grows well in poor to average soil, prefers full sun for maximum flower and fruit production, but it will also tolerate part shade. The greenish-white to yellow blooms appear in May and June. In late summer, the blooms are replaced by orange fruit which then split open to reveal the deep red seeds (berries) which cover the branches. The fall branches can be cut and used as decoration or can be left for the birds to enjoy throughout the winter. (Please note that the fruits and berries are poisonous to humans if ingested.) American bittersweet can be grown along a fence line or the vine can be left to naturalize on the ground, but it is not advised to grow bittersweet near small trees or shrubs since the hardy vine could easily girdle or damage the anchor plant. Bittersweet can readily self-seed, but in order to produce the seeds (berries), you must have both a male and female plant. One male can fertilize up to six female plants. American bittersweet is both deer and drought tolerant.