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Eastern Burningbush Euonymus atropurpurea


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Eastern Burningbush
© Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Alternate name: Eastern Wahoo, Euonymus

Family: Celastraceae, Staff Tree view all from this family

Description Eastern wahoo is a large, clumping, deciduous shrub which can develop into a small tree, 20-25 ft. tall. Twigs are lime-green and bordered by corky lines. Leaves are the same lime-green, turning red in fall. Small purple flowers are succeeded by showy fruits. The crimson pods split in mid-autumn to reveal scarlet-coated seeds which hang on far into winter.

Warning Members of this species may have toxic alkaloids in their leaves, stems or roots. Although poisoning is not commonly recorded, this plant should not be ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Habitat Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Canyons & valleys, Watersides (fresh).

Range Great Lakes, Southeast, Texas, Eastern Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Plains, Rocky Mountains, New England.

Comments Though quite shade-tolerant, this shrub does well in full sun. It is somewhat naturalized in the New York. Plants are susceptible to Euonymus scale and crown gall, and need protection from deer and rabbits. Root suckers may be pulled off if a single-stemmed tree is desired.

Exposure Preference Partial shade to shade.

Native Distribution Ontario to s. Michigan, Minnesota & North Dakota, s. to Florida & e. Texas

Site Preference Floodplains; stream banks; moist woods

Soil Preference Fertile, moist soils. pH 6.6-7.5.

Wildlife Value Rabbit and deer browse. Birds eat the fruits only for emergency ration.