Burning bush or Winged Euonymous (Euonymus alatus)

Invader Type: 


Mechanical Control: 

Hand pull: Any time of year when the ground is soft, especially after a rain, hand pull small plants by the base of the stem. Be sure to pull up the entire root    system. Hang from a branch to  prevent re-rooting. For larger plants, use a Weed Wrench™. Continue to monitor the area every year for new seedlings.

Cut stump: Cut plants back in the fall or winter. Wrap a few layers of burlap or thick plastic over the stump and tie tightly with twine or rope. Check covered stumps periodically and cut back any new growth.


Chemical Control: 

Cut stump: Cut the plant 4 inches above the ground. Use a drip bottle to apply a 18-21% glyphosate solution to the stump within one hour of cutting. This is best done in late summer through winter when plants are transporting resources to their root systems.

Low volume foliar spray:  This method is used for dense populations and best left to a contractor. In the fall, when native plants are losing their leaves, spray a 2% glyphosate  solution on the entire leaf surface of the plant. In order to avoid drift to native plants, spray only on calm days.






Burningt bush is a deciduous shrub that can grow to 20 feet in Eastern forests.  It is broadly branching from 4 to 8 feet wide, with opposite, simple, serrately toothed leaves that turn brilliant red in fall. Twigs and branches are 4-angled with corky ridges, often green colored even after the first year. Flowers  are small,
inconspicuous and yellowish-green, borne in small clusters in axils of leaves.  Fruits are reddish capsules that split to reveal orange fleshy seeds.

Reproductive Strategy / Lifecycle: 

Winged euonymus primarily reproduces by seed but it can spread through vegetative means by root suckering. The 4-petaled flowers are inconspicuous and appear in May to early June.  The fruit is a cluster of showy pods, usually four found in the leaf axils.  Immature fruits are green that ripens to a purplish outer side that splits to reveal seeds with bright, red-orange coatings in the fall.


Seed production is prodigious; many fall and germinate close to the mother plant creating dense beds of seedlings. Others are spread by birds and other mammals that are attracted to the seeds by their nutritious, fleshy, red covering (aril). Seeds dispersed this way germinate easily and spread the infestation rapidly. Wide usage of this a popular landscape ornamental increases the probability that more will escape from cultivation.

Winged euonymus is able to thrive in many landscape types including roadsides, open fields, open woods and mature forests. It is shade tolerant and grows under a wide range of light and soil types, pH levels and is salt tolerant. It is most successful in well drained soils, but is competitive in water logged soils and becomes stressed in soils subject to drought.
Burning bush has long been a favorite horticultural plant.

Photo credits: (c) J. Kramer; (c) USDA; (c) L. Mehrhoff; (c) J. Miller USDA Forest Service; David Mance, Northern Woodlands Magazine; (c) B. Rice.


Ecological Threat: 

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) spreads from yards to forests and fields after birds consume the fruit and carry the seeds across long distances. Fruits left uneaten fall to the ground, creating a “seed shadow” around the plant’s base.