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Burning bush added to Minnesota's noxious weed list

October 21, 2020
Hedge of mostly green shrubs, starting to turn red, in a front yard along a street.
Euonymus hedge starting to turn red in the fall

Winged Euonymus or burning bush (Euonymus alatus) has been a popular landscape shrub since it arrived in North America in the mid-1800s. A member of the bittersweet family (Celastraceae), Euonymus alatus is indigenous to Northeastern Asia, Japan and Central China. Its brilliant red fall foliage, corky “winged” branches and orange-red fruits, as well as its adaptability, have made it a desirable ornamental landscape plant with four-season interest — which is especially important here in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, the seediness of the plant has caused it to escape the managed landscape to inhabit the natural landscape where it outcompetes native vegetation for sunlight, soil nutrients and space. It has now been added to the State Noxious Weed List in 2020 as a Specially Regulated Plant.

According to Emilie Justen of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) “The special regulation requires nurseries and growers to phase the plant out of production over the next three years. And on January 1, 2023, the species will move to the Restricted Noxious Weed category, meaning it will be prohibited from sale, propagation and transport in the state of Minnesota.” In Minnesota, winged burning bush has been found naturalizing from the Twin Cities metro area down through the southeast corner of the state. (Source: MDA October Weed of the Month)

While homeowners are not required to remove E. alatus from their landscape, the MDA and UMN Extension encourage people to consider alternative shrubs with similar characteristics and growing conditions such as glossy black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), regent serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia ‘Regent’) and 'Little Devil™' ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Donna May' PP22,634).

Green pointed leaves turning red with bright orange small berries.
Fruits are moved by birds, wind and water where they easily seed.
Tan branches with flange-like “wings” along them and green leaves.
Winged branches of the Euonymus provide year-round interest in Minnesota landscapes.

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, horticulture

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