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Celastrus scandens - L.
Common Name Climbing Bittersweet, American bittersweet
Family Celastraceae
USDA hardiness 3-8
Known Hazards The fruit is poisonous[222]. All parts of the plant are potentially toxic[222].
Habitats Rich soils[235] in dense moist thickets, woods and along river banks[43, 268].
Range Eastern N. America - Quebec, south to North Carolina and New Mexico..
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: Green, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Mid summer. Form: Spreading or horizontal, Variable spread.

Celastrus scandens Climbing Bittersweet, American bittersweet

Celastrus scandens Climbing Bittersweet, American bittersweet
Thomas G. Barnes @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of climber
Celastrus scandens is a deciduous Climber growing to 8 m (26ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 2. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Stem.
Edible Uses:

Bark and twigs - they must be cooked[105]. The thickish bark is sweet and palatable after boiling[2, 161, 177]. Another report says that it is the inner bark that is used, and that it is a starvation food, only used when other foods are in short supply[257]. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant since there are suggestions of toxicity.
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Analgesic;  Antirheumatic;  Cancer;  Cardiac;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Skin.

Climbing bittersweet was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes, though it is scarcely used in modern herbalism[257]. The root is diaphoretic, diuretic and emetic[222]. It is a folk remedy for chronic liver and skin ailments (including skin cancer), rheumatism, leucorrhoea, dysentery and suppressed menses[222]. A strong compound infusion, usually combined with raspberry leaf tea, has been used to reduce the pain of childbirth[257]. A poultice of the boiled root has been used to treat obstinate sores, skin eruptions etc[257]. Externally, the bark is used as an ointment on burns, scrapes and skin eruptions[222]. Extracts of the bark are thought to be cardioactive[222]. Many plants in this genus contain compounds of interest for their antitumour activity[218].


Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Arbor. Prefers a deep loamy soil[11]. Dislikes chalky soils[108]. Succeeds in full or partial shade[188]. Requires a humus-rich soil if it is to be at its best[219]. A rampant climber, it requires ample space and is best grown into an old tree. It climbs by means of twining and also by prickles on the young stems[182]. Plants do not normally require pruning[219]. The foliage of some wild plants is variegated[235]. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[200]. A good bee plant[108]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Plants are usually dioecious, in which case male and female plants must be grown if seed is required[182]. This species seldom fruits freely in Britain[182]. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Invasive, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for dried flowers, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed - gather when ripe, store in dry sand and sow February in a warm greenhouse[78]. Three months cold stratification leads to a higher germination rate[113]. Remove the flesh of the fruit since this inhibits germination[113]. Germination rates are usually good[78]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Layering in August of the current seasons growth. Takes 12 months[78]. Root cuttings, 6mm thick 25mm long in December. Plant horizontally in pots in a frame[78].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Readers comment
David Beaulieu   Fri Jan 13 2006

Oriental and American Bittersweet Vines How Oriental and American bittersweet plants differ from each other and from bittersweet nightshade.

Al Hill   Mon Dec 3 2007
Would cooking or drying remove the toxins in the fruit. I have tasted the berrys from this and thougt they were exelent.
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Subject : Celastrus scandens  

Plant Uses

Edible Uses
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