Winged burning bush

Common name: Winged burning bush
Scientific name: Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Sieb.
Synonyms: Burning bush, winged euonymus, winged spindle tree

Legal status: Specially Regulated: Three-year production phase-out then move to Restricted beginning January 1, 2023.

Life cycle: Perennial
Related species: Introduced species: E. fortuneii, E. europaeus, E. hamitonianus.  Native species: E. atropurpureus.
Habitat: Grows in full sun or full shade, adaptable to may growing conditions.
Impact: Environmental: Very shade tolerant, forms dense canopy, reduces native plant diversity in understory, prolific seed producer, seeds disbursed by wildlife.
Native range: Asia including far eastern Russia, central China, Korea and Japan.
Means of spread:  Plants reproduce by seed which are spread by wildlife.

Background

Winged burning bush was introduced to North America in the mid-1800s for use as an ornamental shrub. The bright red fall foliage makes it an attractive landscape plant and it has been commonly planted as hedges and in foundation plantings. Shade tolerance and good form without much pruning are also important characteristics that make winged burning bush a valuable and popular plant.

Identification

Winged burning bush is a woody perennial shrub averaging 5-10 feet tall. It can form multiple stems or a single stem that branches close to the ground. It is a member of the Celastraceae (Bittersweet) family. Leaves are simple and opposite, finely serrated, 1 – 3 inches long and taper into a point. Young branches develop reddish, corky “wings” giving this shrub a distinctive appearance. Fruits mature into red capsules that eventually split open exposing 1 – 4 bright orange to red berry-like arils containing two seeds each.

Management

  • Mechanical: pulling or digging up roots
  • Chemical: Foliar, cut stump, hack and squirt, basal bark herbicide treatments

Images and their description

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Characteristics  described

Winged burning bush fall color

Leaves turn bright red in fall.

Winged burning bush flowers

Clusters of small flowers develop in leaf axils.

 

Winged burning bush fruit

Fleshy, bright orange to orange-red fruit develop in the fall.

Winged burning bush infestation

Infestation forms dense shrub layer in forest understory.

 

Close up of winged burning bush leaves

Leaves are pointed, opposite and occur in pairs.

Winged burning bush seedling with roots

Seedling with deep root system.

Close up of stem showing winged bark

Stems have corky bark or “wings”.

A hand holding a corky stem

Stem with corky bark.

Bark of winged burning bush

Inner bark turns light brown, outer bark is darker gray-brown.