Celastrus orbiculatus is an invasive liana in the Eastern United States. Its native congener, C. scandens, is less common and declining in the Northeast. The correct identification of these two species is often difficult because of their similar vegetative characteristics. Using morphological characteristics of both species growing naturally along a sand dune/forest ecotone, we built models for use in discriminating between the species, given a suite of leaf and fruit traits. We confirmed that the two species can be discriminated effectively using fruit characters, notably fruit volume and seed number. Several leaf traits, such as length-to-width ratio and leaf apex length can also discriminate between the species, but without the same predictive reliability of fruit traits. In addition, we determined that at leaf out in the spring the leaves of the two species were folded differently in the bud allowing them to be successfully discriminated in the early spring. Land managers could use this information to differentiate between the two species in the field and thereby control for the invasive C. orbiculatus, while preserving remaining populations of C. scandens.
Additional publication details
Distinguishing native (Celastrus scandens L.) and invasive (C. orbiculatus Thunb.) bittersweet species using morphological characteristics