Taxonomic name: Euonymus alata (Thunb.) Siebold
Synonyms: Celastrus alatus (Thunb.), Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Siebold
Common names: burning bush (English), winged burning bush (English), winged euonymus (English)
Organism type: shrub
Euonymus alata is a deciduous shrub native to Asia that has been introduced to the United States from New England to the Gulf Coast. Euonymus alata becomes a nuisance because of the ease with which its seeds are spread; the readiness of germination; its adaptability to various soils and its tolerance of full shade. Euonymus alata is a threat to natural areas because it shades out native herbs and crowds out native shrubs. Birds relish the fruit of Euonymus alata and provide a means for dispersal.
Euonymus alata is a deciduous shrub that is slow growing but can reach 4.6-6.1 metres in height (and width). The bark is gray-brown and the stems have prominent, corky wings running along both sides. The leaf-buds are brownish-green and strongly divergent. The leaves are opposite, elliptic, and measure 2.5-7.6cm long and 1.3-3.2cm wide with fine, sharp serrations on the margin. In autumn the dark green leaves turn a brilliant purplish red to scarlet colour before dropping to the ground (Martin, 2002).
agricultural areas, natural forests, planted forests, range/grasslands, scrub/shrublands, urban areas
Populations of E. alata have been found in mature, white oak upland forest and open, second growth lowland forest. Other populations have been found dominating pastures, the understory of shady hillsides, small ravines in valley floor forests, and glacial drift hill prairies. E. alata is adaptable to various environmental conditions; it grows well in different soil types and pH levels and is tolerant of full shade (Martin, 2002).
According to DCR (2003), the threat to natural areas from E. alata is that it shades out native herbs and crowds out native shrubs. Unfortunately, birds relish the 6mm to 8mm (1/4 to 1/3-inch) long red fruit and consequently distribute the seeds across the countryside where plants readily sprout and establish themselves, enhancing the extent of the plant's distribution. The shrub becomes a nuisance because of the ease with which its seeds are spread, the readiness of germination, its adaptability to various soils, and its tolerance of full shade.
The bright red fall foliage of E. alata makes this shrub a popular ornamental, and it is commonly planted along interstate highways as hedges, and in foundation plantings (Martin, 2002).
Native range: Euonymus alata is native from northeastern Asia to central China.
Known introduced range: In the United States it can be found from New England to northern Florida and the Gulf Coast.
Introduction pathways to new locations
For ornamental purposes: According to Martin (2002), E. alata was introduced into the USA from northeastern Asia around 1860 for use as an ornamental shrub. The bright red fall foliage of E. alata makes this shrub a popular ornamental.
Local dispersal methods
Consumption/excretion: Martin (2002) indicates that birds relish the fruit of E. alata, and seeds passing through their digestive tract are viable. Seeds dispersed this way germinate easily and spread the infestation to other areas.
DCR (2003) suggests that supplemental water and fertilizer can make this slow-growing shrub increase its growth rate significantly.
According to Martin (2002), seed production is prodigious; many germinate where they fall close to the mother plant creating dense beds of seedlings.
Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Monday, 24 January 2005