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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beautiful but bad

I was walking along the Upland Woods Trail in Wildwood Metropark yesterday afternoon when I spotted it: burning bush, euonymus alatus.
Euonymus alatus in oak-maple woodland
It looks innocent, doesn't it? And even I have to admit that the late color is welcome, for all the fun of crunching through brown, dried leaves.

leaf close-up
Many of us have this plant in our yards. The college where I teach has planted a hedge of it, and the bright red shrubs are a showstopper in early October. But there's a problem.
This particular euonymus is an Asian native and has no natural controls on this continent. Insects leave it alone, deer have no interest in browsing it, and birds like the fruit. Check out the following USDA publication: http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/references/public/VT/JS314-Burning_Bush.pdf

Yes, each of those red berries contains at least one seed that can turn into a bush. This single specimen bore hundreds of berries, and the woods were full of this plant. Burning bush can grow in shade and is invading woodlands throughout the eastern US, crowding out native shrubs and spring ephemerals like trillium.
As beautiful as burning bush is and as easy as it is to grow, if you have it in your yard, do consider taking it out. Our woodland wildflowers will thank you.

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