A popular landscape shrub known as burning bush is now on the state noxious weed list as a specially regulated plant.

Winged euonymus or burning bush (Euonymus alatus) 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. The brilliant red fall foliage, corky “winged” branches and orange-red fruits, as well as its adaptability, make it a desirable ornamental landscape plant with four-season interest — which is especially important in Minnesota.

Fruits of the burning bush are moved by birds, wind and water where they easily seed. Photo / University of Minnesota Extension
Fruits of the burning bush are moved by birds, wind and water where they easily seed. Photo / University of Minnesota Extension

The seediness of the plant, however, caused it to escape the managed landscape to inhabit the natural landscape, where it outcompetes native vegetation for sunlight, soil nutrients and space.

“The special regulation requires nurseries and growers to phase the plant out of production over the next three years,” stated Emilie Justen of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a news release. “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.”

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In Minnesota, winged burning bush has been found naturalizing from the Twin Cities metro area down through the southeast corner of the state, according to the agriculture department.

Winged branches of the Euonymus provide year-round interest in Minnesota landscapes. Photo / University of Minnesota Extension
Winged branches of the Euonymus provide year-round interest in Minnesota landscapes. Photo / University of Minnesota Extension

While homeowners are not required to remove Euonymus alatus from their landscape, the agriculture department and University of Minnesota 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).