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Oriental bittersweet

Quick facts

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is a Prohibited Noxious Weed (Eradicate List) in Minnesota. Above and below-ground parts of the plant must be destroyed. No transportation, propagation or sale of Oriental bittersweet and its varieties is allowed.

  • Oriental bittersweet is a vine that strangles and smothers forest stands.
  • It dominates tree canopies and reduces light and available moisture for other vegetation.
  • A large-scale mature infestation often contains dead trees covered by heavy, woody vines.

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How to identify Oriental bittersweet

  • A thick and woody deciduous vine that can grow up to 66 feet.
  • Light brown to grayish.


  • Alternate green leaves that turn yellow in the fall.
  • They can be oblong to round in shape, 2 to 5 inches long, and 1.4 to 2 inches wide.
  • Leaves are very variable and not a good identifier.
close up of green and white oriental bittersweet flower
Oriental bittersweet flowers


  • Separate male and female plants with flowers.
  • Flowers are found in clusters of 2 to 7, with each flower having 5 petals.
  • Flowers are the only way to positively identify male plants; males do not produce fruit.

Fruit and seeds

Close up of red Oriental bittersweet berries with bright yellow leaves.
Oriental bittersweet berries
  • Loose bunches of 3 to 7 yellowish, 3-parted capsules enclosing reddish berries are strung along the stem near the leaf axils.
  • Berries have three segments containing 1 or 2 seeds each.
  • Mature berries are red with yellow capsules in the fall, and can persist all winter.
  • Seeds can be carried by birds as they feed on the berries.


  • Vines can root where they touch the ground.
  • Rhizomes can spread and send up new plants.

360 degree image of Oriental bittersweet

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Angela Gupta,  Amy Rager and Megan M. Weber, Extension educators

Reviewed in 2019

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