, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 273–282 | Cite as

Comparative performance of invasive and native Celastrus species across environmental gradients

  • Stacey A. Leicht-YoungEmail author
  • John A. SilanderJr
  • Andrew M. Latimer
Population Ecology


The ability to understand and predict the success of invasive plant species in their new ranges is increased when there is a sympatric native congener available for comparison. Celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet) is a liana introduced into the United States in the mid-1800s from East Asia as an ornamental plant. Its native congener, Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet), ranges from the east coast of the United States as far west as Wyoming. In the Northeastern United States, C. orbiculatus is continuing to expand its range while C. scandens appears to be in serious decline. One hypothesis for this decline is that C. scandens does not have such a wide range of ecological tolerances in the current landscape as C. orbiculatus, which seems to tolerate a greater range of resource conditions. To investigate this hypothesis, we transplanted these two species into ten sites that spanned a full range of light and soil moisture conditions to compare their establishment and performance in terms of aboveground growth (biomass and height) and mortality. After two years, C. orbiculatus showed significantly lower mortality and greater biomass across all resource conditions compared to C. scandens. In addition, C. orbiculatus preferred more mesic soil moisture conditions, while C. scandens performed better in drier soil moisture conditions. Since much of the Northeastern United States is now forested, this preference for mesic soil conditions could make it more successful than C. scandens in the region. This study shows the utility of manipulative experiments, particularly those using congeneric native species as benchmarks, for assessing the causes and predicting the course of invasions.


Celastrus orbiculatus Celastrus scandens Congeners Invasive species Lianas Phytometer Plasticity Transplant study 



The authors would like to thank R. Chazdon, C. Jones, N. Pavlovic, R. Grundel, B. Schmid, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Research support was provided by the USDA grant 2001-52103-11320 for the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE) and the University of Connecticut Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ronald Bamford Endowment. Experiments in this paper comply with current laws in the USA.


  1. Antúnez I, Retamosa EC, Villar R (2001) Relative growth rate in phylogenetically related deciduous and evergreen woody species. Oecologia 128:172–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baruch Z, Goldstein G (1999) Leaf construction cost, nutrient concentration and net CO2 assimilation of native and invasive species in Hawaii. Oecologia 121: 183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckage B, Clark JS (2003) Seedling survival and growth of three forest tree species: the role of spatial heterogeneity. Ecology 84:1849–1861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boothroyd CW (1951) A new leaf spot of Celastrus scandens L., the climbing bittersweet. Mycologia 43:373–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns JH (2004) A comparison of invasive and non-invasive dayflowers (Commelinaceae) across experimental nutrient and water gradients. Divers Distrib 10:387–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burns JH (2006) Relatedness and environment affect traits associated with invasive and noninvasive introduced Commelinaceae. Ecol Appl 16:1367–1376PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burns JH, Winn AA (2006) A comparison of plastic responses to competition by invasive and non-invasive congeners in the Commelinaceae. Biol Invasions 8:797–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carter GA, Teramura AH (1988) Vine photosynthesis and relationships to climbing mechanics in a forest understory. Am J Bot 75:1011–1018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Caspersen JP, Kobe RK (2001) Interspecific variation in sapling mortality in relation to growth and soil moisture. Oikos 92:160–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Caspersen JP, Silander Jr JA, Canham CD, Pacala SW (1999) Modeling the competitive dynamics and distribution of tree species along moisture gradients. In: Mlandenhoff DJ, Baker WL (eds) Spatial modeling of forest landscape change: approaches and applications. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Castillo JM, Fernandez-Baco L, Castellanos EM, Luque CJ, Figueroa ME, Davy AJ (2000) Lower limits of Spartina densiflora and S. maritima in a Mediterranean salt marsh determined by different ecophysiological tolerances. J Ecol 88:801–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chazdon RL (1988) Sunflecks and their importance to forest understory plants. Adv Ecol Res 18:1–63Google Scholar
  13. Daehler CC (2003) Performance comparisons of co-occurring native and alien invasive plants. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 34:183–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Delta-T Devices (1998) Theta probe soil moisture sensor ML2: user manual. Delta-T Devices, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  15. Durand LZ, Goldstein G (2001) Photosynthesis, photoinhibition, and nitrogen use efficiency in native and invasive tree ferns in Hawaii. Oecologia 126:345–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fike J, Niering WA (1999) Four decades of old field vegetation development and the role of Celastrus orbiculatus in the northeastern United States. J Veg Sci 10:483–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Finizi AC, van Breemen N, Canham CD (1998) Canopy tree-soil interactions within temperate forests: tree species effects on soil pH and exchangeable cations. Ecol Appl 8:447–454Google Scholar
  18. Foster DR, Motzkin G, Slater B (1998) Land-use history as long-term broad-scale disturbance: regional forest dynamics in central New England. Ecosystems 1:96–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerlach Jr JD, Rice KJ (2003) Testing life history correlates of invasiveness using congeneric plant species. Ecol Appl 13:167–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gleason HA, Cronquist A (1991) Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada, 2nd edn. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NYGoogle Scholar
  21. Goodwin BJ, McAllister AJ, Fahrig L (1999) Predicting invasiveness of a plant species based on biological information. Conserv Biol 13:422–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Griffiths ME, Orians CM (2004) Salt spray effects on forest succession in rare coastal sandplain heathlands: evidence from field surveys and Pinus rigida transplant experiments. J Torrey Bot Soc 131:23–31Google Scholar
  23. Grotkopp E, Rejmánek M, Rost TL (2002) Toward a causal explanation of plant invasiveness: seedling growth and life-history strategies of 29 pine (Pinus) species. Am Nat 159:396–419CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Herron P, Martine CT, Latimer AM, Leicht-Young SA (2007) Invasive plants and their ecological strategies: prediction and explanation of woody plant invasion in New England. Divers Distrib 13:633–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hou D (1955) A revision of the genus Celastrus. Ann Mo Bot Gard 42:215–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huber H, Kane NC, Heschel MS, von Wettberg EJ, Banta J, Leuck A, Schmitt J (2004) Frequency and microenvironmental pattern of selection on plastic shade-avoidance traits in a natural population of Impatiens capensis. Am Nat 163:548–563PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Insightful Corporation (2003) S-PLUS 6.2 for Windows. Insightful Corporation, Seattle, WAGoogle Scholar
  28. Jenkins AE, Jehle RA (1951) An anthracnose of bittersweet in Maryland. Plant Dis Rep 35:413–414Google Scholar
  29. Kobe RK (1999) Light gradient partitioning among tropical tree species through differential seedling mortality and growth. Ecology 80:187–201Google Scholar
  30. Kramer PJ, Boyer JS (1995) Water relations of plants and soils. Academic, San Diego, CAGoogle Scholar
  31. Leicht SA (2005) The comparative ecology of an invasive bittersweet species (Celastrus orbiculatus) and its native congener (C. scandens), Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Connecticut, Storrs, CTGoogle Scholar
  32. Leicht SA, Silander Jr JA (2006) Differential responses of invasive Celastrus orbiculatus (Celastraceae) and native C. scandens to changes in light quality. Am J Bot 93:972–977Google Scholar
  33. Lutz HJ (1943) Injuries to trees caused by Celastrus and Vitis. Bull Torrey Bot Club 70:436–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ma J, Moore G (2004a) Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb. In: Wildland shrubs of the United States and its territories: Thamnic descriptions (General Technical Report IIFT-WB-I). United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry and Shrub Sciences Lab, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico Google Scholar
  35. Ma J, Moore G (2004b) Celastrus scandens L. In: Wildland shrubs of the United States and its territories: Thamnic descriptions (General Technical Report IIFT-WB-I). United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry and Shrub Sciences Lab, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico Google Scholar
  36. Mack RN (1996) Predicting the identity and fate of plant invaders: emergent and emerging approaches. Biol Conserv 78:107–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mack RN (2003) Phylogenetic constraint, absent life forms, and preadapted alien plants: a prescription for biological invasions. Int J Plant Sci 164:S185–S196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mack RN, Simberloff D, Lonsdale WM, Evans H, Clout M, Bazzaz FA (2000) Biotic invasions: causes, epidemiology, global consequences, and control. Ecol Appl 10:689–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martin PH, Marks PL (2006) Intact forests provide only weak resistance to a shade-tolerant invasive Norway maple (Acer platanoides L.). J Ecol 94:1070–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maurer DA, Zedler JB (2002) Differential invasion of a wetland grass explained by tests of nutrients and light availability on establishment and clonal growth. Oecologia 131:279–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McDowell SCL (2002) Photosynthetic characteristics of invasive and noninvasive species of Rubus (Rosaceae). Am J Bot 89:1431–1438Google Scholar
  42. McDowell SCL, Turner DP (2002) Reproductive effort in invasive and non-invasive Rubus. Oecologia 133:102–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McNab WH, Meeker M (1987) Oriental bittersweet: a growing threat to hardwood silviculture in the Appalachians. N J Appl For 4:174–177Google Scholar
  44. Mitchell RS, Sheviak CJ (1981) Rare plants of New York state. New York State Museum, Albany, NYGoogle Scholar
  45. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (2000) Environmental Conservation Law, § 3-0301, 9-0105, 9-1503. Cited 13 August 2007
  46. Nicotra AB, Chazdon RL, Iriarte SVB (1999) Spatial heterogeneity of light and woody seedling regeneration in tropical wet forests. Ecology 80:1908–1926CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oksanen J, Minchin PR (2002) Continuum theory revisited: what shape are species responses across ecological gradients? Ecol Model 157:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pacala SW, Canham CD, Silander Jr JA, Kobe R (1994) Sapling growth as a function of resources in a north temperate forest. Can J For Res 24:2172–2183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pacala SW, Canham CD, Saponara J, Silander Jr JA, Kobe RK, Ribbens E (1996) Forest models defined by field measurements: estimation, error analysis and dynamics. Ecol Monogr 66:1–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Patterson DT (1974) The ecology of oriental bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, a weedy introduced ornamental vine, Department of Biological Sciences. Duke University, Durham, NCGoogle Scholar
  51. Pinheiro JC, Bates DM (2000) Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Putz FE (1984) The natural history of lianas on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Ecology 65:1713–1724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  54. Radford IJ, Cousens RD (2000) Invasiveness and comparative life-history traits of exotic and indigenous Senecio species in Australia. Oecologia 125:531–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Reichard SH, Hamilton CW (1997) Predicting invasions of woody plants introduced into North America. Conserv Biol 11:193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rejmánek M, Richardson DM (1996) What attributes make some plant species more invasive? Ecology 77:1655–1661CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Richards CL, Bossdorf O, Muth NZ, Gurevitch J, Pigliucci M (2006) Jack of all trades, master of some? On the role of phenotypic plasticity in plant invasions. Ecol Lett 9:981–993PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanford NL, Harrington RA, Fownes JH (2003) Survival and growth of native and alien woody seedlings in open and understory environments. For Ecol Manage 183:377–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sans FX, Garcia-Serrano H, Afán I (2004) Life-history traits of alien and native Senecio species in the Mediterranean region. Acta Oecologia 26:167–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schierenbeck KA, Mack RN, Sharitz RR (1994) Effects of herbivory on growth and biomass allocation in native and introduced species of Lonicera. Ecology 75:1661–1672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schnitzer SA, Bongers F (2002) The ecology of lianas and their role in forests. Trends Ecol Evol 17:223–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schreeg LA, Kobe RK, Walters MB (2005) Tree seedling growth, survival, and morphology in response to landscape-level variation in soil resource availability in northern Michigan. Can J For Res 35:263–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schweitzer JA, Larson KC (1999) Greater morphological plasticity of exotic honeysuckle species may make them better invaders than native species. J Torrey Bot Soc 126:15–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Siccama TG, Weir G, Wallace K (1976) Ice damage in a mixed hardwood forest in Connecticut in relation to Vitis infestation. Bull Torrey Bot Club 103:180–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Silander Jr JA, Klepeis DM (1999) The invasion ecology of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) in the New England landscape. Biol Invasions 1:189–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Silveri A, Dunwiddle PW, Michaels HJ (2001) Logging and edaphic factors in the invasion of an Asian woody vine in a mesic North American forest. Biol Invasions 3:379–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sinclair WA, Lyon HH, Johnson WT (1987) Diseases of trees and shrubs. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NYGoogle Scholar
  68. Sipe TW, Bazzaz FA (1995) Gap partitioning among maples (Acer) in central New England: survival and growth. Ecology 76:1587–1602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Steward AM, Clemants SE, Moore G (2003) The concurrent decline of the native Celastrus scandens and spread of the non-native Celastrus orbiculatus in the New York City metropolitan area. J Torrey Bot Soc 130:143–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. USDA NRCS (2006) The PLANTS Database (, vol 2004. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
  71. van Breemen N, Finizi AC, Canham CD (1997) Canopy tree-soil interactions within temperate forests: effects of soil elemental composition and texture on species distributions. Can J For Res 27:1110–1116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Venables WN, Ripley BD (2002) Modern applied statistics with S, 4th edn. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  73. Webb SL, Dwyer M, Kaunzinger CK, Wyckoff PH (2000) The myth of the resilient forest: case study of the invasive Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Rhodora 102:332–354Google Scholar
  74. Zheng H, Wu Y, Ding J, Binion D, Fu W, Reardon R (2004) Invasive plants of Asian origin established in the United States and their natural enemies. USDA, Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, Morgantown, WV, p 147Google Scholar
  75. Zhixiang Z (2005) Celastraceae (Celastrus and Mircotropis). In: Wu W, Raven PH (eds) Flora of China (Oxalidaceae through Aceraceae), vol 11. Science Press and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing, China Google Scholar
  76. Zielinski ML (1993) Demography, genetic diversity and light requirements of the rare plant species Trollium laxus ssp. laxus., M.S. thesis, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CTGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacey A. Leicht-Young
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • John A. SilanderJr
    • 1
  • Andrew M. Latimer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.US Geological SurveyLake Michigan Ecological Research StationPorterUSA

Personalised recommendations