Collected on this day...
Each specimen has an important scientific and cultural story to tell.
A bittersweet specimen, in more ways than one...
This specimen of American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is the most recent record of the species in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania. It was collected on November 11, 1940 by Ellen Mason on "railroad property" in Thornburg, just west of the city of Pittsburgh.
Can American bittersweet be found in Allegheny county? It has largely been taken over by the invasive Oriental bittersweet from East Asia. The main differences between the two species are leaf shape (invasive species has more rounded leaves, native species are more elongated) and fruit (invasive species has fruit all along base of many leaves, whereas the native species has clusters of fruit at the end of each branch, as seen in this specimen).
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) really didn't become prevalent in our area until a few decades ago. But it sure it prevalent now. It is also said to hybridize with the native American bittersweet, probably further swamping out the native.
American bittersweet has beautiful orange/red fruits that hang on into fall/winter long after their leaves have dropped.
Keep a look out for American bittersweet.