Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus
No! Don’t plant this!
This very popular shrub, known also as Winged Euonymus, Winged Spindle, Wahoo, and Winged Spindle Tree, has been listed as invasive in 19 states, primarily in the Northeast, including New Jersey. It is banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire but its destructive effects are present in most Eastern states where it has not been banned or declared invasive. Unfortunately, most garden centers and nurseries still offer it for sale.
Introduced from Northeastern Asia and China in the late 1800s, it has thrived here because it is very easy to grow, has few pests, and adapts to a very wide variety of soil types, moisture or drought, sun and shade (and non-green thumbed gardeners). Its outstanding fall color, a brilliant red, is also responsible for its popularity as a hedge, a specimen plant, and many other landscaping uses.
While the flowers are ornamentally insignificant, the attractive seeds are prolific and very viable from this self-pollinating plant. Birds and other berry-eating animals disperse them widely, where they form great thickets in woodlands and uncultivated sites, out-competing most native plants.
The term “winged” is based on the fact that many of the stems have corky “wings”. The leaves, 1 to 3” long and up to 1 ¼” wide, are simple and arranged oppositely on the stem; they are bit downy underneath. The spring and summer leaf colors are medium to dark green. Burning Bush might grow to 15-20’ in height but the growth rate after a fast spring flush is slow. There are many varieties today; most of them are shorter and more compact. The shrub’s habit is mounded-rounded.
To control Burning Bush, pull, dig or cut it out. If the plant is very large, cut it down and treat the stump immediately with glyphosate or another chemical weed killer, being very careful to follow instructions on the label.
Readily available native alternatives to Burning Bush are Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, and Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica.
Burning Bush has been touted as a cure or aid for many medical conditions through the years. Buyer beware!
To learn more about invasive plants, go to nps.gov/plants/alien and www.maipic.org.
The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Plant of the Month from all Ewing residents.