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American bittersweet, climbing bittersweet

  • Climbing Plants,
  • Native Plants
Celastrus scandens
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
Celastrus scandens



Origin and description

A perennial vine native to Québec. The vigorous species produces fairly low-keyed flowering in the summer, but offers a fall-season spectacle rich in color. Its green foliage becomes golden yellow, but it is the fruiting that is most decorative: female plants bear yellow or orangey capsules that open up and reveal fleshy red arils that cover the seeds. The fruit is toxic for humans, but consumed by certain birds. This climber can kill saplings it wraps itself around, so the best thing is to grow it on a fence, a trellis or a solid pergola.

Height: 7 m
Width: 1.5 to 3 m
Type of growth: voluble leaf stocks
Flowering: greenish, in June
Fruiting: orange-yellow and red, in the fall; persistent in winter
Attractions for wildlife: attracts birds and pollinators


Common name

American bittersweet, Climbing bittersweet

Latin name (genus)

Celastrus scandens

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Celastraceae

Growing conditions

Exposure: sun, semi-shade (fruiting more abundant in the sun)
Soil type: fresh to dry, well-drained
Observation: generally dioecious species: both male and female plants are thus required for there to be fruit. Do not allow to climb around trees and shrubs because it can cause their death. Can spread by way of suckering roots and through seedlings.


  • Zone 2

See also

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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