Celastrus orbiculatus (Asian bittersweet, round-leaved bittersweet, climbing spindleberry)

description: deciduous woody vine

place of origin: northeast Asia

urban habitat: disturbance-adapted; found on roadsides, chain-link fences, stone walls, highway banks and median strips, along railroad tracks, around tree trunks and shrubs in minimally maintained cultivated landscapes; shade tolerant: can establish and grow slowly in low-light conditions and then grow more rapidly when exposed to full sunlight; once established, its canopies inhibit photosynthesis of plants underneath.

ecological function: erosion control on slopes; food and habitat for wildlife.

history: Celastrus orbiculatus was first introduced to North America in 1860 as an ornamental. It is now widely distributed across the Great Lakes states, northern New England states and south the North Carolina. In the 1960s and 70s, it was planted to stabilize highway banks. In Asian medicine, the plant is used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and bacterial infections and derivatives made from its bark purportedly contain antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antioxident, antibacterical, and insecticidal properties. The plant is also used for treatment of paralysis and numbness in the extremities. Its leaves are edible but its berries are toxic to humans.