Plant of the Week: Autumn Revolution™ American Bittersweet

Photo by Friends of the High Line

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

One of the prettiest elements of fall on the High Line is the bright red-orange fruit of Autumn Revolution™ American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens 'Bailumn'). American bittersweet is a vine native to much of the central and eastern United States. The cultivar, Autumn Revolution™, produces larger fruit than the straight species. In addition, Autumn Revolution™ self-pollinates while the straight species is dioecious (meaning that a male plant must be present in order for the female to be fertilized and bear fruit). This distinction is especially important because, as the native species cross-pollinates with the highly invasive Asian bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), it is becoming increasingly difficult to confirm that a seedling has the native genetic identity and is not a hybrid.

Originally imported in 19th century as an ornamental specimen, Celastrus orbiculatus quickly escaped the garden. Reaching up to 66 feet in length, it can easily pull down trees. As biologist Peter Del Tredici notes, “in extreme cases, high-climbing vines can flatten whole forests, creating what is politely referred to as a vinescape.” The impact of Asian bittersweet and other invasive vines is especially visible along the Sawmill River Parkway. Asian bittersweet can be found on the High Line in the self-seeded landscape of the Interim Walkway, which runs from West 30th to West 34th Streets. The vine took hold in the gravel ballast of the rail bed during the structure’s years of disuse. As with other very aggressive plants growing spontaneously along the Interim Walkway, High Line gardeners are taking measures to control its spread. Pernicious as it may be, Celastrus orbiculatus is a beautiful plant and was part of the inspiration for the park’s naturalistic design.


Celastrus scandens 'Bailumn' can be found on the High Line's vegetal screen, between West 17th and West 18th Streets.

Download our November bloom list.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential  role in the High Line’s most important gardening projects – become a member of Friends of the High Line today!

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