Celastrus scandens

Botanical Name : Celastrus scandens
Family: Celastraceae
Genus: Celastrus
Species: C. scandens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Celastrales

Common Mame :American Bittersweet , Bittersweet or Climbing Bittersweet

Habitat :Celastrus scandens is native to central and eastern North America. It was given the name Bittersweet by European colonists in the 18th century because the fruits resembled the appearance of the fruits of Eurasian Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), which was also called Bittersweet. Today, American Bittersweet is the accepted common name of C. scandens in large part to distinguish it from an invasive relative, C. orbiculatus (Oriental Bittersweet), from Asia.It grows in  rich soils  in dense moist thickets, woods and along river banks.

Description:
It has a sturdy perennial vine that may have twining, woody stems that are 30 feet (9.1 m) or longer and an inch or more thick at the base. The stems are yellowish-green to brown and wind around other vegetation, sometimes killing saplings by restricting further growth. It has tiny, scentless flowers at the tips of the branches. It has colorful, orange fruits that are the size of a pea.  Bloom Color: Green, Yellow.   Main Bloom Time: Mid summer. Form: Spreading or horizontal, Variable spread.

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Celastrus scandens is a  woody and shrubby climber, growing over trees or fences. It has smooth thin leaves 2 to 4 inches long and about half as wide. The small greenish-white  flowers are produced in June in short clusters. The fruit is a round, orange-yellow capsule which opens in autumn, disclosing the scarlet-colored seed pod. The seed capsules remain on the plant well into the cold season and provide food for birds in the winter.It blooms mostly in June

Fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouse, pheasants, bobwhite and squirrel.  Old fruits are eaten as survival foods by many birds and animals in late winter.   Fruits should NOT be eaten by humans.    Bunches of twisted branchlets, loaded with fruit, are very decorative and the plant is disappearing in many places because of the ruthless methods of market pickers.

Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Arbor. Prefers a deep loamy soil. Dislikes chalky soils. Succeeds in full or partial shade. Requires a humus-rich soil if it is to be at its best. 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. Plants do not normally require pruning. The foliage of some wild plants is variegated. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value. A good bee plant. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. Plants are usually dioecious, in which case male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. This species seldom fruits freely in Britain. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Invasive, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for dried flowers, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

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Propagation :
Seed – gather when ripe, store in dry sand and sow February in a warm greenhouse. Three months cold stratification leads to a higher germination rate. Remove the flesh of the fruit since this inhibits germination. Germination rates are usually good. 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. Root cuttings, 6mm thick 25mm long in December. Plant horizontally in pots in a frame.

Edible Uses:..…Bark and twigs – they must be cooked. The thickish bark is sweet and palatable after boiling. 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. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant since there are suggestions of toxicity.

Medicinal Uses:
Climbing bittersweet was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes, though it is scarcely used in modern herbalism.  The root is a folk remedy for chronic liver and skin ailments, rheumatism, leukorrhea, dysentery and suppressed menses. A strong compound infusion, usually combined with raspberry leaf tea, has been used to reduce the pain of childbirth. A poultice of the boiled root has been used to treat obstinate sores, skin eruptions etc.  Externally, the bark is used as an ointment on burns, scrapes and skin eruptions.  The bark of the root has been taken internally to induce vomiting, to quiet disturbed people, to treat venereal diseases and to increase urine flow.  As an ointment mixed with grease it has been used to treat skin cancers, tumors, burns and swellings.  A decoction of the root bark has been used to induce menstrual flow and perspiration.  Extracts of the bark are thought to be cardioactive.  Many plants in this genus contain compounds of interest for their antitumor activity.

C. scandens roots were used by Native Americans and pioneers to induce vomiting, to treat venereal disease, and to treat symptoms of tuberculosis.

Known Hazards: Fruits of Celastrus scandens are poisonous to humans when ingested internally, but are favorites of birds.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.easywildflowers.com/quality/cel.sca.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celastrus_scandens
http://countrystoreplants.com/proddetail.php?prod=10233
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Celastrus+scandens

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