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Common Name: Climbing Bittersweet
Celastrus scandens is a Deciduous Climber up to 8.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
The fruit is poisonous[
]. All parts of the plant are potentially toxic[
Eastern N. America - Quebec, south to North Carolina and New Mexico..
] in dense moist thickets, woods and along river banks[
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[
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.
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 diaphoretic, diuretic and emetic[
]. It is a folk remedy for chronic liver and skin ailments (including skin cancer), rheumatism, leucorrhoea, 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[
Extracts of the bark are thought to be cardioactive[
Many plants in this genus contain compounds of interest for their antitumour activity[
Seed - gather when ripe, store in dry sand and sow late winter 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[