Winged euonymus is a deciduous shrub introduced to North America as a horticultural species from northeastern Asia. Since its introduction to North America in the 1860’s it has been used in landscaping, along roadsides as hedges and in foundation plantings. The bright foliage of the species makes it a popular ornamental plant, contributing to its spread across the continent. It is also commonly known as “burning bush” because of its bright red foliage.
The winged euonymus is able to grow in a variety of soil types and typically found in open woods, disturbed lands and floodplains. This species behaves well in urban landscapes, but must be maintained, and should not be planted near woodlands because it can escape cultivation and invade the forest understory.
Winged euonymus is distributed across the United States from Maine to northern Florida and west to Iowa and Missouri. There has been a reported increase in populations along the eastern counties of the United States. Populations have also been found in the southern parts of Ontario.
Impacts of Winged Euonymus
- Creates dense thickets that crowd out and shade native plants, as well as threaten habitats such as fields and prairies.
- Adaptable and can grow in a variety of habitats.
- It has no predators in North America.
- Can spread widely because the seeds are distributed by birds and wildlife.
How to Identify Winged Euonymus
- Deciduous shrub that can grow up to 2.5 m in height.
- 2-4 broad, corky wings along branches.
- Leaves are dark green, opposite, 2-7 cm long and 1-3 cm wide, and turn bright red in the fall.
- Flowers have four greenish-yellow petals.
- Fruit appear in the fall and are about 1.3 cm long.
What You Can Do
- Learn how to properly identify winged euonymus and how to prevent the spread of this invasive species.
- Learn about invasive plants and horticultural alternatives.
- When gardening, purchase non-invasive plants from reputable suppliers.
- Invasive plant species should not be composted, properly dispose of seeds, flowers, and plant parts in the garbage.
- Do not transplant species from natural areas in to your garden, this can be illegal and may introduce invasive species.
- Reduce the chance of spreading invasive plants and seeds by keeping pets on a leash when on trails.
- If you find winged euonymus or other invasive species in the wild, please contact the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or visit EDDMapS Ontario to report a sighting.
OFAH/OMNRF Invading Species Awareness Program. (2012). Winged Euonymus. Retrieved from: www.invadingspecies.com.
This factsheet may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes.
Header photo by James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org