Burning Bush
Euonymus alatusCelastraceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerFruitLeaf
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Winged euonymus, Winged burning bush, Winged wahoo, Winged spindle-tree
  • Celastrus alata

The Plant:

  • A branching, deciduous shrub with an erect habit. Compact, 6-9 feet tall.

The Leaves:

  • opposite
  • elliptical
  • pointed
  • finely toothed
  • autumn color bright scarlet red

The Stem:

  • green to brown
  • corky wings

The Flowers:

  • Creamy white to green flowers with four petals. Flowers are .25 to .33 inches wide. They grow in clusters borne from the leaf axils.

The Fruits:

  • cluster of 4 pods
  • purplish seed coat
  • splits to reveal orange aril (fruit)

The Habitat:

  • escapes from planted landscapes
  • light shade to full sun
  • tolerates full shade
  • abundance in calcareous soils
  • old fields
  • open woods and floodplain forests


  • birds spread the seed
  • seeds also drop underneath the plant

Key ID Features:

  • deciduous shrub
  • opposite
  • winged stems (some cultivars may lack wings)
  • red fall color
  • corky twigs
  • orange fruit
  • white to green flowers

Similar Species:

  • Burning bush is the only local species with winged stems.


  • Flowers are relatively inconspicuous. Burning Bush or Winged Euonymus can take over open woodland habitats creating a monoculture as it pushes out native shrubs. Due to its matted, dense root system, and dense shade, few other plants can succeed beneath Burning bush.
  • Some younger plants or cultivated varieties may lack the winged stems.
  • On Nantucket, two individuals are known in the wild.

Growth Form: Shrub

Origin: Japan, China

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Potential Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Invasive

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: importation ban July 2006, propagation ban January 2009

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston