Fall - Burning Bush

Common names: Burning Bush, Corky Spindle Tree 

Botanical name: Euonymus alatus

Native Range: Japan, eastern Russia, Korea, China
Introduced to the USA around 1860

Height: 20 feet if unpruned 

Spread: 12 feet

Form: Variable. Twigs have corky “wings”

Growth rate:  Medium to rapid

Sun: Prefers full sun but will tolerate full shade

Soil: Prefers loamy, but will grow in any soil as long it is not wet 

Dispersal: Birds and mammals consuming the fruits

Fall color: Bright scarlet red if grown in full sun. Less bright if grown in shade 

Flowers: Inconspicuous

Fruits: Edible by wildlife

Bark: Green on young branches, with corky “wings” 

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Why is this plant on “do not plant” lists?

This popular shrub can spread beyond cultivated areas and into native habitats in many eastern and midwestern states. As it is very tolerant of deep shade, it can thrive in the interiors of forests. Since it is a rapid grower, it can out-compete native plants, often forming dense thickets.

Native alternatives are many and varied. Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Sweet Pepperbush (Clethera alnifolia), Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillate) are possibilities. “There are many native alternatives for those looking to capture the vibrant fall colors burning bush offers—for example, native viburnum shrubs have both attractive spring flowers and glossy, maroon fall foliage, and shrubby dogwood species, including silky (Cornus amomum), gray (Cornus racemosa), and red stem (Cornus sericea), have similarly vibrant fall coloration. Both viburnum and dogwood shrubs provide valuable food and shelter for wildlife in addition to aesthetically beautiful foliage and flowers.”2


  1. NC State Extension - https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/
  2. Penn State Extension - https://extension.psu.edu/burning-bush