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Burning bush or winged euonymus

(Euonymus alatus)

Photo of winged euonymus
Photo credit: Nisa Karimi

Ornamental deciduous shrub with winged stems and branches, turning vibrant red color in the fall.

Overview

Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: burning bush, burning tree, winged burning bush, burning euonymus, winged wahoo, winged spindle-tree
  • Scientific names: Euonymus striata, Celastrus alata, Celastrus striata
Ecological threat:
  • Invades forests, open woods, forest edges, pastures, prairies, roadsides. Dominates hardwood forests shrub layer.
  • Reported as invasive throughout the northeast and midwest.
  • Tolerates both full sun and full shade.
  • Adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, with high salt tolerance.
  • Prolific seed producer, with high viability.
  • Not palatable to white-tailed deer, resulting in greater browse damage to native herbaceous plants and other desirable species.
Overview map of winged euonymus classification in WI
Restricted (orange) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted (including the cultivar ‘Nordine’ and excluding all other cultivars)
*Straight species and cultivar 'Nordine' are restricted. All other cultivars are exempt.

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for winged euonymus was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves & stems: Shrubs have wings or distinct corky ridges on the bark and stems. On younger growth, this may be reduced. Leaves are arranged opposite on branches. Leaves are simple, elliptic with finely serrated edges. Foliage turns vibrant red colors in fall.

Flowers: Perfect (possessing both male and female parts), inconspicuous, yellow-greenish flowers.

Fruits & seeds: Flay fruit capsules contain up to 4 seeds with red-orange fleshy tissue (arils).

Roots: Deeply rooted and fibrous.

Similar species: Wahoo (E. atropurpureus; native), can be distinguished from burning bush by its larger growth form and Wahoo does not have the winged stems like burning bush. Also, its autumn leaf color is yellow.

Control

Mechanical:
  • Hand-pull seedlings. Use a spading fork or weed wrench for removing larger plants and their root systems.
  • Larger plants can be cut, but the stump must be ground out or regrowth frequently monitored and clipped.
  • This species can re-sprout after cutting and top-kill herbicides.
Chemical:
  • Cut stumps can be painted with herbicide.
  • If populations are too large for cutting to be practical, foliar spray of glyphosate can be applied in the early summer months.
  • Note that this species can re-sprout after cutting and top-kill herbicides.

Photos

View pictures of winged euonymus in our photo gallery!

Resources

Sources for content:
  • Fryer, Janet L. 2009. Euonymus alatus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2013, August 19].
  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 90-91.
  • Wisconsin State Herbarium.
Links for more information: