Drupes of the "Burning Bush" Euonymus alatus and Oriental Bittersweet
Euonymus alatus "burning bush, winged spindle" is a native of Eastern Asia. It is mostly grown for the bright red color of the leaves in autumn. I wasn't aware that it had fruit or I may have previously seen the small fruit but gave it only a passing glance as it is fairly inconspicuously held under and mostly hidden by the leafy branches; only to be seen if you lift the branch or squat under the bush and look up.
I looked for the fruit because Entangled mentioned that Euonymus alatus was related to the Euonymus americanus, the strawberry tree that she and Layanee (Euonymus atropurpureus, Eastern wahoo) have featured in their blogs. I'm glad I looked!
The fruit is covered by a purplish membrane that splits and curls back revealing the bright red fruit. The fruit is tiny, not more than 1/2 inch long but you can see a familial resemblance to the other larger and more elaborately fruited Euonymus.
We inherited our burning bush from the previous owner of the house. The bush grows vigorously requiring hard pruning yearly. I really don't care for the bush and would have dug it out long ago but it serves as a windbreak, sheltering some tender shrubs in its lee. For some reason our bush doesn't turn bright red like most I see in the neighborhood probably because it gets too much shade from a Kousa dogwood tree. I feel just a smidge better about the bush because of the admittedly interesting and colorful fruit. So it will be spared the shovel but not the hard pruning.
Entangled also mentioned that Euonymus is related to the bittersweet vine Celastrus, both are in the same Celastraceae (staff vine) family.
This may be the Celastrus scandens L. American bittersweet but I think it looks more like Celastrus orbiculatus the Oriental bittersweet.
C. orbiculatus is a seriously invasive weed in much of eastern North America. The vines hang thickly from trees in most wooded areas in central NJ. The photo was taken about a block from our home in an overgrown area next to a water tower.
From Wikipedia: "The fruit are eaten by frugivorous birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings." Frugivore is an animal that subsists by eating mostly fruit which has a high concentration of nutrients compared to eating the less nutritious leaves, stems and roots of the plant.