Burn that Burning Bush

I was recently looking up activities I could participate in through my local conservation programs and came across a link for invasive plants for my area. I clicked on this figuring I would test my knowledge and impress myself by knowing most of the plants on the list– you know purple loosestrife, garlic mustard, staff iris etc. But talk about unwarranted confidence!

Going down my county’s “worst of the worst” list for most invasive plants I saw that I, too, was an offender. Among the plants on the list was the burning bush– that fairly non-descript bush that for one or two weeks in the fall may turn a brilliant red. Crap! I have three burning bush in my yard–and mine don’t even stand out that much. At their glory they are really more of a tepid pink.

My burning bushes–or euonymus alata to be fancy–were a leftover from the previous owners, whose landscaping choices I have almost completely eradicated in the nine years we have been at the house. But while I have dug up or cut down almost every other bush that came with the property, these burning bush always survived the cull. I always thought they were so inoffensive and they provided screening. Plus for for a couple of weeks in the fall they were even kind of pretty. And have you ever dug up a bush? It’s a lot of work. One of my least favorite garden chores. So for years I didn’t see any reason to put forth the effort. The burning bush didn’t get voted off the island.

Though, honestly, while I can and do blame the former owners–Bob and Betty– and their poor choices, the truth is I may very well have planted some if I had been in the market for bushes. I just didn’t know any better and they are at least recognizable and familiar. This is where I feel we are all mislead. This plant is planted everywhere by landscapers and subdivision developers and is sold at every nursery I have ever been to. We have all been sleeping with the enemy!

I did more research and came across this article on a gardening site I really enjoy. This article comments that the burning bush “has escaped cultivation and is considered invasive in the Midwest and the South as well” as the northeast where it’s sale, transport, and propagation is banned in many states. Read more: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3082/#ixzz34TMRfdhA

So began my anti-burning bush campaign. Well–it’s not much of a campaign. Mostly I am just going to dig mine up and write this article. And maybe if it comes up in conversation I will throw out a warning. I was at a great neighborhood nursery the other day and saw them being sold. I struggled with whether or not I was going to inform the managers or owners of this enemy in their midst. But do I really want to be that guy? On that day, I did not. I walked away.

Mostly I see this as a wake up call for my own ignorance. What other environmental plant crimes have I been guilty of?! Common landscaping plants that are invasive are not limited to burning bush. A local university extension site warns that we should also avoid “ “butterfly bush, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, common privet, tree of heaven, black jet bead ….All have shown invasive qualities and are escaping into our natural areas.”

I may be part of the problem. You see… I am all about getting free plants without really doing my due diligence about whether they are the right plants for my yard.



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