A twining woody native vine. Clusters of small, greenish/white flowers are followed by clusters of showy, orange capsules that split open to expose a crimson seed. Dark-green leaves turn greenish-yellow in fall. Suckers at the roots, also spreads via self-seeding (thanks birds!).
Best fruit display occurs in full sun. American bittersweet blooms on the tips of new wood grown in the current season. Pruning stimulates vigorous new growth, flowers and potential fruit — when timed right. Prune bittersweet vines in late winter or early spring, before the new buds form on tips. If support is not provided, the vine will sprawl along the ground appearing more shrub-like.
These plants are primarily dioecious (separate male and female plants). Female plants need a male pollinator to produce the attractive fruit (one male for 6-9 females). Male flowers have five obvious stamens with yellow tips in the center of five petals. Female flowers have a thick style crowned with a scalloped edge stigma in the center of five petals, surrounded by five shorter, non-functioning stamens.
Our native bittersweet is being replaced by the more aggressive Oriental bittersweet (C. orbiculatus). The two plants are similar in appearance; however, flowers and fruits of the native bittersweet grow at the ends of stems, and the non-native flowers and fruits grow along the stem at the leaf axils. Also, American bittersweet has orange fruit capsules, while those of Oriental bittersweet are yellow.
Height: 15-20 ft.
Spread: 3-6 ft.
Bloom time: May to June
Sun: full sun
Deer and rabbit resistant
This vine is native to Ohio.