Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) is an invasive shrub that can be found in many gardens, including our own. I have not yet been able to convince Judy to let me get rid of it.
The popularity of Burning Bush is explained at this time of year, when the foliage generally turns bright red.
There are small fruits popular with birds, who spread the seeds far and wide.
According to the website Invasive.org, Burning Bush “threatens a variety of habitats including forests, coastal scrublands and prairies where it forms dense thickets, displacing many native woody and herbaceous plant species.”
Another member of this genus that is invasive in much of North America is the vine Winter Creeper (E. fortunei).
We used to have this plant growing at the corner of the garage and the Back Garden gate. I was able to remove it without too much trouble.
Even so, this is an invasive that is extremely common and still widely sold, with a number of popular cultivars.
Based on my exposure to these 2 species, I thought it might be necessary to swear off the genus altogether. I considered starting an organization called Euonymous Anonymous.
However, it turns out such a drastic step is not needed. There are at least a couple of native members of the genus with ornamental qualities as good or better than Burning Bush.
For instance, there is E. atropurpureus, which rejoices in the common name Eastern Wahoo. The fruits of this plant are much more ornamental than those of Burning Bush. The leaves are not quite as brilliant, but I think the leaves and fruit together create an excellent effect.
There’s also E. americana, which has two common names so excellent that I would have trouble choosing between them: Strawberry Bush and Hearts-a-Burstin. But let’s stick with Strawberry Bush for now.
Both names are derived from the remarkable fruit, which arguably looks like a strawberry when unripe but then bursts open when fully ripe. Foliage has a very nice orange-red color in fall.
So my mission is clear: I must convince Judy to let me take down the Burning Bush and replace it with a Strawberry Bush or an Eastern Wahoo.
Have you had any experience with these or any other unusual members of the Euonymus clan?
Are Iteas hardy where you are? Once, when I was raving about the color of E. alatus, a dear friend who is a much more skilled gardener than I, suggested that Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ or Itea ‘Merlot’ develop the same incredible fall color, but hold their leaves a lot longer. Not sure if they have any fruit worth mentioning, but I do know they sport these cute, white, sausag-ey flowers in summer. And, they are great pollinator plants to boot!
I had no idea E. fortunei is invasive. I bought one as an annual to drape out of a pot, and now – years later – it’s still with me. Definitely not an annual, but at least it’s confined! LOL!
Yes, the Iteas are hardy here. That’s another good option.
I remember burning bush from back east. Yes, it is invasive.
Their is also a shrub called Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo. I had not heard of the strawberry bush in the Euonymus genus.
I don’t think that one is available in our area.
“Eastern Wahoo”! What a great name! You may sign me up as a charter member of EA.
Soon we’ll have tote bags and coffee mugs for contributors.
I love euonymus with their weird fruit and lovely autumn colour. E. Hamiltonianus is fabulous. There is one called ‘Pop Corn’.Two other stunning ones are ‘Red Elf’ and ‘Miss Pinkie’.Euonymus is not invasive here. I have quite a collection of different ones grown from seed. I have found they don’t like drought and fruit better in wet years.
Hmm. Never heard of the hamiltonianus. I think you’re right that they prefer a moist environment.
I volunteer for a local land trust and help with invasive removal weekly. Euonymus alatus is definitely starting to be a problem and I hope you convince Judy to remove yours. It is widely planted here and every time I see one in someone’s garden I groan inside. (All those seeds being dispersed by the birds!) Substituting a Strawberry Bush is genius- those fruits are wonderful. Good luck with your remove-and-replace campaign.
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Every time I go to a garden center I see lots of Burning Bush for sale. Sigh.
My neighbor planted a burning bush at the end of their driveway years ago. Now there are shrubs lining their woods. Very sad. I have hearts a bustin and they are fabulous shrubs. The deer like them but I don’t expect that is an issue in your garden. I highly recommend them!
Fortunately we don’t have deer. Good to know the hearts-a-burstin has done well for you.
My neighbor has whahoo bush/small tree. I think it would be perfect by your house. PLease Judy, let him take that euonymus bush out. It makes me so sad to see it in the middle of a forest. It has nothing but those red leaves going for it. I have given up on Euonymus hybrids. They all revert back to the nasty invasive even if it takes several years which has been my experience.
That happens with many species.
Great post! Thank you. I am growing two very small (from quarts) native euonymous (strawberry bush) … they have been been slow to establish and I was recently reading they prefer moist soils so looking to move them to a better location. Really appreciate this post — will link in the future on “Nuts for Natives.”
Glad you found the post useful. Hope your strawberry bushes prosper! Look forward to pictures.
This really was interesting. I’m glad to hear there are some acceptable alternatives to the burning bush, despite the comment that some cultivars can revert back over time. I like the strawberry bush particularly: such cute fruits!
It just shows up all over yards and woodlands in Nashville, a gift from birds. I grow E americana and Hypericum frondosum, which colors up beautifully each fall. Lovely photos.
Except for the three of Burning Bush, the other photos were obtained off the internet. Hypericum frondosum sounds interesting, I did not know that it has fall color.
Sorry! I’m with Judy. 😉
I forgive you.
We have been working to rid 22 acres of woods in a park of bush honeysuckle only to see it replaced by burning bush, privet hedge, and winter creeper. I’d like to be a charter member in E.A. but then I won’t be anonymous. On this issue, I’d rather be infamous.
I think it’s the burning bush which is infamous. Surprised you didn’t mention buckthorn.
Smart tactic, to have a replacement plant (or two) in mind when you suggest removing the burning bush. Success is practically guaranteed.
That’s reassuring to hear.
I know of large tracts of land where there is nothing but burning bush so yes, they do displace natives. They are beautiful and terrible all at the same time.
Highbush blueberry is another good substitute with beautiful red color in the fall.
Highbush blueberry needs full sun and acidic soil, I think, so this is not a good spot for them.
We planted a strawberry bush and it seemed very hardy, and we enjoyed the pretty fruit. However, after a few years it grew stronger and the trunk got thicker, we decided it was too close to the house.
That happens with a lot of trees and shrubs.
I’ve always known that last one as Hearts-a-Burstin. First saw it at NC Botanical Garden probably 40 years ago. Maybe you can sneak one in.
That is my hope.
I have had a burning bush right next to my front porch for 46 years. It hasn’t gone anywhere. And neither have my neighbors’ shrubs. Much worse is buckthorn.
Buckthorn is pretty bad, no doubt.
I’m for taking it out. In the Midwest, they were part of many landscapes and were beautiful. We had two. Here in NH, they are on the invasive list and can’t be sold. However, in the fall, I can look around in just about any direction, and there they are.
Interesting that they cannot be sold in NH. I wish that were true here.
I love Euonymus in general and also love the common names you have for them all! I have a small Euonymus alatus that hasn’t grown much but fills a gap nicely and is welcome for its late summer colour. But all around us in the hedgerows we see E. europeus. Not invasive but very welcome for its dense cover for birds in summer and its lovely colour and berries in autumn.
I don’t know if E. europeus is grown much in the US. I haven’t heard of it being invasive.
Oops. Just looked it up and turns out it is invasive in parts of the US.
I do love the Burning bush, but feel the same about the strawberry bush. Both are lovely. I think Judy will win out!xxx
She often does.
Hey hey, I found you again! I couldn’t remember where to look for your comments that have gone into spam but by resubscribing, hopefully I’ll get them again.
My mom planted a burning bush by the front door of my childhood home and it promptly spread throughout the property, and my dad literally fought it til his dying day. Still, they are pretty!
I hope that works – I sometimes think WordPress has it in for me. Yes, the Burning Bush is pretty, like many invasives.
So pretty, all of them! 🙂
I have heard the name of the genus and there seem to be pretty cultivars on the market also here in Finland. It’s not considered invasive here, at least not yet. 🙂
Your posts, interesting and entertaining, never fail to cheer me up.
That’s so nice of you to say! Makes me feel I am not wasting my time.
I’m with Judy. =)
🤣 didn’t know they were invasive, love the color.
For the longest time, only the many cultivars of Euonymus japonica was available here. There is now a ground cover Euonymus available, but I do not know what species it it. It might be the same. The Euonymus japonica that I know is actually the adult growth of a plant that starts out with vining juvenile growth, like many species of Ficus do. That is just weird.