Winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus)

Leaves and winged stem of winged burning bush.


Winged burning bush is a shade-tolerant shrub that has bright red leaves in the fall. It has been commonly planted in landscaping, but can spread into natural areas where it forms dense thickets in the forest understory.



Winged burning bush a shrub that is typically 5-10 feet tall, but can grow up to 20 feet. It has distinctive corky wings on its twigs and turns bright red in the fall.

Leaves and stem

Dark green leaves are arranged opposite each other along the twigs. Leaves are 1-3 inches long with fine teeth along their edges. They are oval and taper into a point. Leaves turn bright crimson to purple-red in the fall. Plants can have a single stem, but commonly have multiple stems, giving them a shrubby appearance. Young twigs and branches are green to brown with 2-4 corky ridges or "wings".


Clusters of small yellow to green flowers with four petals develop where the leaves connect to the branches. Flowering occurs from May to July.


Fruits are red capsules that will split open to reveal 1-4 bright orange to red berries that each contain two seeds. Fruits appear from September to October and are spread by birds and other wildlife.


Winged burning bush roots are deep and fibrous.


Winged burning bush is a woody, perennial shrub. It can grow in a wide range of conditions, from full sun to full shade. It can tolerate a wide range of soils, except for wet, poorly drained soils. It can establish in woodlands, forests, fields, roadsides, and disturbed areas.

Origin and spread

Winged burning bush was introduced to North America from northeastern Asia in the mid-1800s as an ornamental shrub. Its bright red fall foliage has made it an attractive plant in landscaping. However, its seeds are spread by birds into nearby natural areas, where it can form dense stands that suppress native plants. Hundreds of seedlings can also be found below mature burning bush shrubs.

Refer to EDDMapS distribution maps for current distribution.

Don't be fooled by these look-alikes

  • Eastern wahoo, Euonymus atropurpureus (native) – has purple flowers and lacks the distinctive corky winged branches of winged burning bush.
  • Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii (non-native) - has leaves with smooth edges, has a spine at the base of leaves, and lacks the distinctive corky winged branches of winged burning bush.
Regulatory classification

Winged burning bush is a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Specially Regulated Plant. The special regulation is that there is a three-year production phase-out period during 2020 through 2022, after which sale of this species will be prohibited and the species will be listed as Restricted Noxious Weed in 2023.

Threat to Minnesota
  • Winged burning bush is a prolific seed producer and forms dense thickets with hundreds of seedlings underneath the parent plant.
  • It is shade tolerant and can dominate forest understory by shading out native plants under its dense shrub layer.
  • It can invade prairies and shift them away from open areas and toward shrublands.
What you should do

One way that invasive plant seeds and fragments can spread is in soil. Sometimes plants are planted purposefully. You can prevent the spread of invasive plants.

PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks

  • REMOVE plants, animals and mud from boots, gear, pets and vehicle.
  • CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
  • STAY on designated roads and trails.
  • PLANT non-invasive species.
Native substitutes
Control methods

Mechanical control can be done by digging or pulling the plant by hand or with equipment such as a shovel.

Herbicide control can be done using systemic herbicides, which are taken up by plants and move within the plant, killing leaves, stems, and roots. Cut plants will resprout if the stump is not treated with herbicide after cutting. Immediately after cutting (within 2 hours), apply an herbicide containing triclopyr (Garlon 3A/Vastlan, Garlon 4, or other brush killers with triclopyr) or glyphosate to the cut stump to prevent re-sprouting. Always follow label instructions for herbicides. Herbicides can be applied to cut stumps with a paintbrush, wick applicator such as a dauber or "buckthorn blaster," or a low volume sprayer.

In cases where more than a few plants are treated, add an indicator dye (available where pesticides are sold), such as Mark-It Blue, to the herbicide to mark which cut stumps you have sprayed.

For basal stem treatment, a method that applies chemical through the bark, low volume spray applications can be made with Garlon 4, Pathfinder II and similar oil-based products. This application method uses triclopyr ester mixed with an oil diluent (i.e. Bark Oil Blue, kerosene) applied directly to the bark of winged burning bush from the root collar up about 12-18 inches. An ultra-low volume spray wand should be used to minimize herbicide use and reduce the potential for non-target injury.

  • Report new occurrences by submitting a report through EDDMapS, emailing Report a Pest, calling Report a Pest (1-888-545-6684), or contacting your local county agricultural inspector. Please only report occurrences where it is found in places where it has not been purposefully planted.

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