The Q&A Archives: American Bittersweet

Question: Are American bittersweet plants sold through catalogs the same species that grows wild in northern Illinois? The flower and fruit appear to be larger in the wild.

Answer: Bittersweet (Celastrus species) grow as deciduous vines in many areas of the country. American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is native to the eastern US and grows 10-20 feet high. There are separate male and female plants, so you may see some plants without fruit on them. If bittersweet is growing in its native habitat, it will be getting all of its required elements and will have a tendancy to look better than a plant that has been imported to a location where it doesn't get the culture and environment it needs to perform well. When looking for plants, be sure to check the botanical name so you'll be sure to get exactly what you want.

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