Euonymous alatus stem with red fall leaves and berries Burning bush fall stem with red leaves and berries. Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Burning Bush

(Winged euonymus)

Euonymus alatus

2019 Status in Maine: Widespread. Severely Invasive.

Description: Perennial, deciduous shrub, broadly branched, up to ~15' tall, forms dense thickets. Stems frequently have corky "wings." Leaves: Simple, opposite, roughly elliptical, tapered at both ends, usually 1-2" long, finely toothed. Vivid red fall color. Flowers: Small (~¼"), 4-petaled, light yellow to light green, in small clusters coming off the twig on 1-3" stems. Blooms in late spring. Fruit: In early fall, a capsule of red-orange seed surrounded by two purple fleshy coverings which split open. Fruit may remain on plant into the winter.

Native range: Northeastern Asia. How arrived in U.S.: As an ornamental.

Reproduction: By seed and vegetatively. The fruit is eaten and dispersed by birds. There is currently no data on seed banking. Plants can expand vegetatively from root sprouts, especially if damaged.

Habitat: Forests, forest edges, old fields, open areas. Shade-tolerant, will germinate, grow, and reproduce under full canopy. Tolerant of moist to well-drained soil.

Euonymus alatus infestation Burning bush in the woods along a stream

Similar native species: Several heath shrubs (blueberries, huckleberry) turn bright red in fall but these lack corky wings on branches and have alternate, usually entire leaves.

Similar non-native species: European spindle-tree (E. europaeus) has pink seed coverings over its reddish seeds, and has less oval, stouter leaves. Wintercreeper (E. fortunei) looks similar but is usually a climbing vine and is infrequently naturalized in New England. Japanese barberry can turn red in fall but has leaves in alternate nodes along the stem and sharp spines at the base of leaves. None of these have corky wings on the twigs like burning bush.

Fact Sheets and Identification Links

Control Methods

Small plants and seedlings may be pulled up by the roots when soil is moist; larger plants can be cut, but re-sprouting will occur.* Persistent cutting or mowing multiple times during the growing season over several years may kill the plant, but diligence is required. Mowing can prevent seedlings from establishing. Herbicides are effective as foliar applications (glyphosate solution) or cut-stump applications (glyphosate or triclopyr solution applied immediately after cutting except in early spring).

* Correctly dispose of all plant parts † Follow all label directions when using herbicides

Control Technique Video Demonstrations

  • No appropriate control videos found
Euonymus alatus stem with corky wings Burning bush stem with corky wings

Please email invasives.mnap@maine.gov if you have questions about invasive species in Maine

Euonymus alatus stem flowers Burning bush stem with flowers
Euonymus alatus stem flowers Burning bush stem with flowers