Fact Sheet

Winged Burning Bush Euonymus alata (Thunb.) Sieb.

September 20, 2007

Synonyms: wahoo, winged euonymus, burning bush

History and use. Introduced from northeast Asia in the 1860s. Widely planted as an ornamental and for highway beautification.

Ecology. Shade tolerant. Colonizes by root suckers and spreads by animal-dispersed seeds.

Plant. Deciduous, wing-stemmed, bushy shrub to 12 feet in height, multiple stemmed and much branched. Canopy broad and leafy. Small and obovate leaves green and turning bright scarlet to purplish red in fall. Paired purple fruit in fall.

Stem. Four corky wings or ridges appearing along young lime-green squarish twigs and becoming wider with age. Numerous opposite branches, with bases encircled by corky rings. Larger branches and bark becoming light gray.

Leaves. Opposite, obovate, and thin, only 1 to 2 inches long and 0.4 to 0.8 inch wide. Tips tapering to an acute point. Margins finely crenate. Both surfaces smooth and hairless. Dark green with whitish midvein above and light green beneath turning bright crimson to purplish red in fall.

Flowers. April to May. Axillary pairs of small flowers at the ends of a Y-shaped 1-inch stem. Flowers inconspicuous, 0.2 to 0.3 inch across, greenish-yellow, five-lobed, pistil elongating as fruit forms.

Fruit and seeds. August to January. Dangling paired (or single) reddish capsules in leaf axils turning purple and splitting in fall to reveal an orange fleshy-covered seed.

Resembles the larger leaved species of blueberry, Vaccinium spp., but their leaves are alternate. Possibly resembles rusty blackhaw, Viburnum rufidulum Raf., which also has opposite leaves, but distinguished by their larger size and leathery texture. Dormant twigs may resemble winged elm, Ulmus alata Michx., and sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua L., which are usually two-winged instead of four-winged.

Recommended control procedures:

  • Thoroughly wet all leaves with Arsenal AC* or Vanquish* as a 1-percent solution in water (4 ounces per 3-gallon mix) with a surfactant (April to October).
  • For stems too tall for foliar sprays, apply Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution in commercially available basal oil, diesel fuel, or kerosene (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix) with a penetrant (check with herbicide distributor) to young bark as a basal spray (January to February or May to October). Or, cut large stems and immediately treat the stumps with one of the following herbicides in water with a surfactant: Arsenal AC* as a 10-percent solution (1 quart per 3-gallon mix) or a glyphosate herbicide as a 20-percent solution (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix).

* Nontarget plants may be killed or injured by root uptake

From: Miller, James H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 p.