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Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of
Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 82 pp.

Winged Burning Bush
Winged Burning Bush
Euonymus alata

Origin: Northeastern Asia, Japan and Central China

Introduced for use as an ornamental plant for landscaping beginning about 1860. Widely planted by landscape professionals and homeowners for its fall color, dark green leaves, winged stems and other characteristics.

Distribution and Ecological Threat
In the United States, winged burning bush is found from New England to northern Florida and the Gulf Coast and also in Illinois. It threatens a variety of habitats including forests, coastal scrublands and prairies where it forms dense thickets, displacing many native woody and herbaceous plant species. Hundreds of seedlings are often found below

Winged Burning Bush
Britt Slattery, USFWS

the parent plant in what is termed a "seed shadow."

Description and Biology

  • Plant: multiple stemmed, angular branching shrub with conspicuously winged stems, normally 5 to10 feet high but mature plants can grow to 20 feet.
  • Leaves: deciduous, dark green, in pairs along stem, turn brilliant red-purple in autumn.
  • Flowers, fruits and seeds: inconspicuous, greenish flowers occur in late spring and red-purple fruits mature during summer.
  • Spreads: expands locally through vegetative reproduction and to new areas through bird dispersal of seeds.
  • Look-alikes: may be confused with other species of euonymus, including our native strawberry bush, or 'hearts-a-bustin' (Euonymus americana), which does not have winged stems. Saplings of native sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) with winged stems may also be mistaken for winged burning bush.

Prevention and Control
Do not plant winged burning bush. Manual, mechanical and chemical means are available to control established plantings. Seedlings can be pulled by hand. Shrubs can be repeatedly cut to the ground to control re-sprouts, or cut and treated with systemic herbicides like glyphosate and triclopyr.

Native Alternatives

red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Red Chokeberry    Red Chokeberry
Both photos Britt Slattery, USFWS
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
Virginia Sweetspire
Britt Slattery, USFWS
mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
Mapleleaf Viburnum
highbush blueberry
(Vaccinium corymbosum)
Highbush Blueberry
Britt Slattery, USFWS
silky dogwood (Cornus amomum)
Silky Dogwood
Chris Miller, NRCS
fragrant or shining sumac
(Rhus aromatica or copallina)
Fragrant or Shining Sumac
Britt Slattery, USFWS

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USDA Forest ServiceUSDA APHIS PPQ The Bugwood Network University of Georgia is a joint project of
The Bugwood Network, USDA Forest Service & USDA APHIS PPQ.
The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forest Resources and
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology
Last updated on Wednesday, November 05, 2003 at 01:26 PM
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