Monday, March 21, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
|Mounted bird at Smithsonian Naturalist Center|
A little research identified the vine as Oriental or Japanese Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, a species brought here from
Alas, as with so many imported plant species, it has outcompeted our native American Bittersweet, Celatrus scandens, which has many of the same decorative qualities.
The Name Game: Other common names for our native Bittersweet are Climbing Bittersweet, Jacob’s Ladder and Fever Twig! Celastrus derives from kelastros, an ancient Greek name for an evergreen tree. The word
scandens is Greek for trailing or climbing. Orbiculatus refers to the circular shape of the leaf.
C. orbiculatus is a persona non grata for those of us who wish to preserve our native ecosystem. It grows more vigorously and produces more berries than C. scandens. It likes disturbed habitats and can tolerate many different kinds of soil. It chokes out other native vegetation, breaking plants by its excessive weight or shading them out. The older plants of C. orbiculatus can have stems up to 4 inches in diameter. The vine aggressively crawls to the tops of the tallest trees, contributing to uprooting from wind and snow. It can strangle a tree’s roots, cutting off water and nutrients.
Here are the most obvious ways to tell the two plants apart, (assuming one is not examining a hybrid):