Invasive Fall Color

Invasive Fall Color

We have all been told of the dangers posed to the environment by invasive species. Zebra Mussels threaten our waterways, Tall reed grass is ruining our marshlands, and bordering any interstate, you’ll find Asian Bittersweet, Kudzu and Grape Vines. These offenders are easy for us to come to grips with, but not so those plants still sold in our nurseries and garden centers, and beloved for generations. Plants like Barberry and Burning Bush.
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Burning Bush Covers a woodland hillside in North Granby, CT.

Early spring is the time to get a glimpse of Barberries invasiveness, but now, in Autumn, is the time for Burning Bush. Sold for years as for it’s red foliage in the fall, Burning Bush (Euonymous alatus compactus) is used everywhere. It is planted next to bridges on the highway, used a a splash of color in the mixed border, and ironically widely used as a staple of the woodland garden because of its shade tolerance.

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Burning Bush shades out native plant species and reduces the biodiversity of the woodland.

Ironic, because it is here in the woodland, that Burning Bush poses the biggest problem. Thriving wthout the threat of major disease or pests, Burning Bush spreads fast and covers the forest floor, shading out the meager streams of light so needed by the native vegetation. It so thoroughly infests, that it effectively limits the diversity of flora, and in turn the fauna that make a healthy ecosystem.

Next time you think you need a plant with great red fall color, I hope you will turn your back on the Burning Bush for something equally as impressive, but not aggressive. Consider the elegant Enkianthus, or one of my personal favorites, and a great native, High Bush Blueberry. Ooh I can almost taste the blueberry cobler now……

Enjoy the Autumn color!


9 thoughts on “Invasive Fall Color

  1. I never realized how invasive these were since we don’t see them here much in California. That’s too bad, they do seem pretty. But you are right about blueberries being a great choice. I would plant that even without the gift of summer fruit it gives us.

    1. Kat,
      Great to hear from other parts of the country, and that it may not be a problem there. Here we struggle with client education and the sales pitch from the nurseries. Thanks for commenting.


  2. It’s so crazy to see those photos! I can barely get a Burning Bush to grow here – and when it does, it turns a sad shade of pink – not the brilliant colors you have. Pampas grass, however, is another story…that’s the worst stuff around here! One man’s treasure….huh?

    1. Rebecca, you’ve hit on why it is so important not to use “invasive” generically. Many of your invasives are not hardy here, so we call them “Temperennials”, and bring them in for the winter. All this makes national dicussion and invasive prevention a difficult topic.


  3. Thanks Scott for helping raise awareness about this plant! It was finally banned for sale in MA a few years ago but I still see new stands of it popping up all over the place from established plantings.

    Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is another possible alternative to the flaming fall foliage of Burning Bush. It’s native to a little south of this area, but very hardy and also has pretty white flowers in early summer.

    1. Ellen, glad to do what I can. I fear we will be stuck with most of our invasives for a long time. Thanks for a great suggestion for Burning Bush substitute, I like Itea, but have not spec’d it much in designs. I will give it more thought from now on.


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