The euonymus family of shrubs contains some of our most interesting and attractive nature plants. Sad to say while our native shrubs are most welcomed, other non-natives are not as welcomed.
Among these are the winged wahoo or burning bush, wintercreeper and spindle tree. These aliens have been planted in many locations and have escaped from cultivation and spread into sites where they are now crowding out our native plants.
One of our most attractive euonymus is the wahoo or eastern burning bush. It can be found all across Indiana in the sites where it likes to grow. These include stream sides, along the edge of woods and on occasion even in upland locations. This is another of the shrubs that are hard to tell apart unless they are in flower or have produced their fruit.
The wahoo has both flower and fruit that sets it apart from many of our native shrubs. In the spring the wahoo has very attractive maroon flowers that are a half inch across. They form on stalks that are up to inches in length.
In the fall the wahoo really comes alive with fleshy pink fruit capsule that when they open into quarter-shaped ripe fruit reveal bright orange-red seed seeds that can last well into cold weather. Birds and other wildlife do not seem to consume many of these seeds, thus they can be around for an extended period of time.
While the wahoo can reach a height of up to 15 feet, it is usually not this tall. The leaves are a rather dull green in color and range from an inch to six inches in length. They look like many other native shrub leaves, thus the best way to identify the wahoo is by its flowers and fruit.
One reason the fruit is not consumed is the seeds are said to be somewhat poisonous, as a few children have taken ill after they have eaten some of these seeds.