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Burning Bush Euonymus alatus

Phonetic Spelling
yoo-ON-ih-mus a-LAY-tus
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

This plant is problematic and alternatives should be considered.  Please see the suggestions in the left-hand column. 

Burning bush is a weedy species of deciduous shrub, single or multi-stemmed, that is drought tolerant and provides stunning red fall color. In its native Japan, it is often found in thickets and woods in lowlands and mountains. The common name burning bush comes from the bright red fall leaf color and the name corky spindle tree refers to the stems which have corky "wings".

It can be an upright mound in form, have horizontal branches, have a flat top, or even have multiple stems. Unpruned, the shrub grows tall, up to 20 feet by as much as 12 feet wide. Cultivars with more compact forms of the shrub (from 4 to 10 feet tall) are available. Burning bush transplants easily.

Grown mostly as an ornamental plant because of its bright red leaves in fall, but be aware that more shade will equal poor fall color quality. The blooms in spring are small and inconspicuous, but the fall color is a brilliant red. There is also winter interest due to naked, winged branches. 

Burning bush prefers a well-drained loamy soil in dry shade, but also does well in full sun and most soils, including clay. It does not tolerate wet, poorly-drained soil and it appreciates consistent moisture, particularly when grown in full sun locations. When cultivated, it can withstand severe pruning to a small size and is used in the landscape as a screen, hedge, or in shrub border.

This popular landscape shrub has a tendency to spread beyond cultivated garden areas and into native habitats. Its invasive tendency has been noted in multiple midwestern and eastern states including in western North Carolina.  Find it growing in woodland edges, in forests, in mixed deciduous forests, on roadsides, disturbed areas, and any accessible areas where it may expand into a dense grove. Aggressive growth enables it to out-compete other plants. In some areas of the country, it is now considered to be a threat to native plants because of its ability to establish itself where conditions are favorable, out-competing native plants to form dense thickets.

Burning bush seeds are edible by birds and wildlife. However, though no records of toxicity have been seen for this species of Euonymus, a number of other species in this genus are poisonous and caution is advised (thus the advisory of low toxicity).  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Spider mites may appear on stressed plants. Twig blight may occur, particularly in wet soil conditions.  Consider less invasive shrubs in the Euonymus genus for your home landscape.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

More information on Euonymus.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Children's Secret Garden- Wilson Botanical Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Compactus', 'Odum', 'Rudy Haag'
Tags:
#deciduous#invasive#poisonous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#shrub#wildlife plant#weedy#winter interest#fall interest#aggressive#deer browsing plant#thickets#fantz#bird friendly#fall color red#partial shade tolerant#animal dispersed seeds#roadside
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Compactus', 'Odum', 'Rudy Haag'
Tags:
#deciduous#invasive#poisonous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#shrub#wildlife plant#weedy#winter interest#fall interest#aggressive#deer browsing plant#thickets#fantz#bird friendly#fall color red#partial shade tolerant#animal dispersed seeds#roadside
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Euonymus
    Species:
    alatus
    Family:
    Celastraceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South Siberia to East Asia, Japan and China.
    Distribution:
    Throughout the eastern and central United States.
    Wildlife Value:
    Fruit attracts birds who eat the seeds and distribute them. The fall berries are eaten by birds, and the seeds are easily spread. It is attractive to deer. Host plant to many types of beetle.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Range of soil types; drought tolerant
    Edibility:
    Use caution. Many species of this genus are toxic to humans.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Horizontal
    Mounding
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Small 1/2 inch long, red, fleshy fruit ripens in fall within a red capsule. This red, pink, ivory to yellow capsule splits to show orange-red seeds in the fall that are attractive to birds. The fall berries are eaten by birds, and the seeds are easily spread by birds. An obovoid, dehiscent capsule; single seed enclosed in orange-red aril.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    This plant has non-showy, small 4-petaled greenish-maroon flowers. A 3-flowered cyme, axillary. Yellow-green, 4-petaled, 1/2 inch long and 1/3 inch wide.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Cuneate
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    This plant has elliptic to obovate, crenulate to serrulate, opposite to sub-opposite, simple leaves that are 1 to 3 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide, and medium to dark green. They can be finely serrated. Leaves provide excellent red fall color.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    The bark of large old stems is gray or brownish gray and slightly furrowed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Corky Ridges
    Stem Description:
    Green to greenish-brown, alate with 2-4 prominate, corky wings 1/4-1/2" wide, new growth is reddish-green.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Compaction
    Drought
    Erosion
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Children
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Poisonous through ingestion. Poisonous symptoms: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, weakness, chills, and coma. TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN. Ingesting large amounts of any part of the plant can result in poisoning. CHILDREN may be attracted to fruits in fall. No part of this plant is edible, including seeds: All parts are poisonous.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unidentified, possibly a glycoside
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems