Nothing gives pleasure like the fireworks display of autumn color in the garden state but not all foliage is harmless. In fact the fire red of Euonymus alatus (aka Burning Bush) sets off alarm bells to those who know its invasive quality in our woods. Burning Bush has commonly been used for screening hedges but it is quick to escape the tidy confines of property lines and invade our forest seen here not far from where the is picture was taken.
Why is this cause for concern? Its fruit, spread by birds, does cause harm and it is considered (as Doug Tallamy says) a biological pollutant that eliminates diversity in our woodlands. With its deer resistance and ability to grow rapidly in a variety of growing conditions, Burning Bush quickly out-competes our native under-story. The shrub and tree layer that exists under mature canopy trees is critical to our local food web. And we are connected to that web either directly or indirectly through common ground, air, and water.
In some states, this plant has already been banned from the landscape trade, but NJ will not likely take action since it is such a reliable plant for the parking lots that dominate our garden state.
How can you take action? At the very least, prune the hedge by August 15th to eliminate further distribution of fruit. At the very best, choose something different! AlterNATIVES like Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood) or Aronia arbutifolia (Chokeberry) are just a couple of many to consider.