Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Siebold

Burning Bush, Winged Euonymus


CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 18

© SRTurner

Family - Celastraceae

Habit - Shrub with spreading to ascending branches, 1-3 m tall, sometimes spreading by runners.

Stems - Twigs green, sometimes 4-angled with 2-4 conspicuous corky wings 1-4 mm wide.

Euonymus_alatus_stem1.jpg Stem.

Corky wings are seen here, but this feature is often missing.

© SRTurner

Euonymus_alatus_stem2.jpg Stem with little winging.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Opposite, simple, short petiolate, thin to relatively thick but herbaceous, deciduous. Petioles to 2 mm long. Leaf blades 2-6 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, elliptic to obovate, narrowed at the base, narrowed or tapered to a usually sharply pointed tip, the margins finely and usually sharply toothed, the surfaces glabrous or with scattered hairs on the lower surface midrib.

Euonymus_alatus_leaves1.jpg Leaves adaxial.

© SRTurner

Euonymus_alatus_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Numerous axillary clusters of 2 or 3 or solitary flowers.

Euonymus_alatus_inflorescences.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Euonymus_alatus_inflorescences2.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 4, 0.5-1.0 mm long. Petals 4, 2-3 mm long, 2-3 mm wide, broadly spatulate with a minute, stalklike base, greenish yellow, the margins irregular.

Euonymus_alatus_calyces.jpg Calyces.

© SRTurner

Euonymus_alatus_flowers.jpg Corollas.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Fruits 6-8 mm long, 2-4-lobed their entire length, the valves smooth, dark brown to dull purple at maturity. Seeds usually only 1 or 2 per fruit, 4.0-4.5 mm long.

Euonymus_alatus_fruits.jpg Fruits.

The fruit valves have matured and peeled away, exposing the seeds with their bright red arils.

© SRTurner

Flowering - April - June

Habitat - Forests, streambanks, disturbed areas. Widely cultivated and sometimes escaping.

Origin - Native to Asia.

Lookalikes - Vegetatively resembles E. atropurpureus, E. americanus, and other members of the genus. Fertile branches are relatively easily distinguished.

Other info. - This shrub is extensively cultivated for its brilliant fall foliage, which gives rise to the "burning bush" moniker. Because it frequently escapes cultivation and spreads into wild areas, it is not the best landscaping choice for those interested in conservation and preservation of Missouri's natural areas. Escapes have formed scattered populations throughout the eastern half of the U.S., though the plant is currently not particularly common in the wild.

Burning bush is recognized by its small, 4-petaled pale flowers and the corky ridges on the stems. However, the latter characteristic is highly variable and sometimes entirely absent. Vegetative individuals can strongly resemble the native wahoo (E. atropurpureus); however, the latter plant has moderately dense, short, erect hairs on the leaf undersides, whereas the leaves of E. alatus are normally glabrous. Burning bush can also resemble the native E. americanus, which also has pale flowers, however, the flowers of this uncommon native species have 5 petals.

Photographs taken near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 10-31-2008, 4-30-2021, and 10-31-2021 (SRTurner).