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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Burning Bush
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Burning Bush Becoming Invasive


Burning Bushes are very common landscape plants grown mainly for their intense fall color. Unfortunately, burning bush are becoming a plant of concern for many of us as we watch it reseed and invade nearby natural areas.

I have two very large burning bush in my yard that were planted by the previous owner. The one growing in full sun usually turns a bright red in the fall, while the other one with more shade usually is a dull pink-red. Both have thousands of new seedlings sprouting around them and across my woods.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) is a multi-stemmed shrub that grows 5 to 20 feet tall. This shrub gets the common name Winged Euonymus due to its interesting stems. Look at the stems closely and you will see large, corky wings arranged at right angles around the stem. The wings range from ¼ to ½ inches wide.

This shrub has interesting fruit, which is the main source of its invasiveness. Euonymus and Bittersweet are in the same plant family and thus have similar looking fruit. In fact, I've had a couple people come into my office wondering if they had "Bittersweet Shrubs/Trees" in their yards. Fruit is a ¼ to 1/3 inch long red capsule that opens to reveal a bright orange-red seed.

Burning bush and Oriental bittersweet are both native to Asia. Here they are spread across our landscape by birds dispersing the seeds and by overplanting as ornamental plants. For more information about these plants of concern and more, go to the New Invaders Watch Program website at www.newinvader.org.

The good news is that there are several native alternatives to use instead of burning bush. I plan to remove my two large burning bushes this summer and replace them with better native plants. I'm considering the Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropupureus) and the Spicebush (Lindera benzoin).

To learn more about plants of concern, how to control them, and alternatives to consider, attend the Good Plants, the Bad Plants, and the Lovely Plants webinar series on April 7 and 21. This free online web series hosted by University of Illinois Extension starts at 6:30 and ends at 8 p.m. From the comfort of your own home learn all about common invasives and control strategies on April 7th and all about landscape alternatives and pollinator plants to consider on April 21st

Please visit http://web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps/ to register for this free event and join us from your home computer and/or phone. Both nights will be taped and available on our University of Illinois Extension Horticulture YouTube channel following the program.



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