A Villain in the Landscape


With the arrival of autumn color in the landscape and the scarcity of leaves, one can clearly see the invasiveness of Winged burning bush, or Euonymus ‘compacta’ or Winged euonymus. Whatever name you use for this fast-growing villain; help to eliminate it from our landscape. It is easy to propagate, extremely hardy, very popular and wildly invasive from New England to Northern Florida and the Gulf Coast, as well as Illinois. It threatens a variety of habitats including forests, coastal scrublands and prairies where it forms dense thickets, which displace native woody and herbaceous plants. Do not plant Winged burning bush! Use manual, or chemical means to control established plantings. Seedlings can be pulled by hand. Shrubs can be cut repeatedly to the ground to control re-sprouting, or treated with systemic herbicides like glyphosate and triclopyr.

Good native plant alternatives are the exquisite Redvein enkianthus, (Enkianthus campanulatus) which has good fall color and is particularly lovely in foundation plantings. Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is another good choice. There are many cultivars and they vary in degrees of size, hardiness and fall color. Use this very overlooked plant in mass pond plantings or as a “spot of brilliant autumn color to the mixed border”. (C. Colston Burrell, Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, put out by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.)  My personal favorite plant alternative is the native Red chokecherry (Aronia arbutifolia), in particular the cultivar, “Brillantissima”. This plant has brilliant red fall color, clusters of white flowers in the spring that yield glossy red berries, which last into the winter. It can be used as a tree or a shrub, and I have seen it pruned very successfully as a standard. Use in mass plantings, or as an informal hedge, or for great seasonal interest in a mixed bed.

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About christinedarnelldesignstudio

Christine Darnell Design Studio is a landscape and garden design studio in Chester, CT. Imaginative plant combinations characterize the work with an artist’s eye towards texture and color. A strong commitment to environmentally considerate design runs through the practice, the support of local nurseries, and guidance towards the most environmentally sustainable materials and products. Adjunct Professor, Horticulture Dept. of Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury, CT , Wetlands Commissioner for the Town of Chester, Vice President, APLD, Connecticut Chapter.
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