Invasive Profile: Winged Burning Bush

The striking fall color of this shrub belies its aggressive nature.

This time of year, Winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus) stands out. This should surprise no one, as it is often planted specifically for its fall color, which reminds me of red construction paper, the kind kids use in kindergarten.

Burning bush is a native of northern Asia, distinguished most of the year by the “wings” on it branches and stems. It can form dense thickets and seeds prolifically, often cropping up along forest edges and in unmowed meadows. In this manner, it displaces more ecologically productive native plants.

We have removed some Burning bush at Puddock Hill, in particular a hedge of four mature plants that once grew near the driveway gate. These clearly were intentionally planted by the previous owners, no doubt before the plant’s harm became well known.

One or two other examples of burning bush remain on the property. Volunteers, I think. Here’s a close-up of the fall presentation of one mature shrub between the barn meadow and the wet woods: