japanese bittersweet

Oriental Staff Vine

Oriental Staff Vine (Celastrus orbiculatus) is a woody vine native to East Asia of the Celastraceae family. It is also commonly called Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Bittersweet or Asiatic Bittersweet. Oriental staff vine was introduced into North America in 1879 [1], and has since become a damaging weed.

The defining characteristic of the plant is its vines: they are thin, spindly, and have silver to reddish brown bark. They are generally between 1 and 4 cm in diameter. When Oriental staff vine grows by itself, it forms thickets; when it is near a tree or shrub, the vines twist themselves around the trunk [2]. The encircling vines have been known to strangle the host tree to death [2].

The leaves are round and glossy, 2-12 cm long, have toothed margins and grow in alternate patterns along the vines [2]. Small green flowers produce distinctive red seeds. The seeds are encased in yellow pods that break open during autumn. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

Cultivation and uses

Before it was recognized as a destructive invasive species, Oriental staff vine was planted along roadsides to help control soil erosion [1]. The orange-red berries and the vines that hold them are popular as holiday decorations.

Because of these uses, Oriental staff vine has taken over landscapes, roadsides, and woods. In the United States it can be found as far south as Louisiana, as far north as Maine, and as far west as the Rocky Mountains [3]. It prefers mesic woods, where it has been known to eclipse native plants.


Oriental staff vine has spread quickly in the United States, and is considered an invasive species by the USDA Forest Service . The easiest way to get rid of a small infestation is by ripping the plants out of the ground by their roots. If there is a large colony, the recommended course of action is to cut at the root, and apply Glyphosate, as most herbicides have no effect on the vine [3]. The application of glyphosate should be done at the beginning of winter [3].


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