Because it has no known natural predators in North America, burning bush (Euonymus alatus) can spread undisturbed through its prodigious seeds and extensive root system. This paired with its ability to grow under a mature forest canopy means that burning bush can outcompete native woody and herbaceous plant species. This decreases the amount of edible food available to wildlife. Uncontrolled, burning bush poses a serious threat to our woodlands and to the habitat diversity in our ecosystem.
Despite its demonstrated invasive qualities, burning bush remains a popular landscaping shrub and is still sold in nurseries in many parts of the United States. This continued popularity is one of the challenges in controlling this invasive species.
Identification: Tapered oval leaves are one to three inches long and have fine-toothed edges. The leaves are opposite (appear at the same position on the stem on each side) and turn a bright crimson to purplish color in the fall before dropping. Its flame-colored leaves make burning bush a highly visible and compelling presence in the autumn landscape. Two to four corky wings (the word alatus is Latin for “winged”) often form along the length of young stems, but may not always appear in shaded areas or thick canopies. Its fruit ripens in fall. They are reddish capsules that split to reveal orange fleshy seeds.
Visit our Burning Bush Weed Alert to learn how to identify and control this invasive shrub.