Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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.


Blogger Kylee said...

I think bittersweet is sooooo pretty!

7:52 PM  
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10:20 PM  
Anonymous Gina said...

It's an interesting plant Ki, Do the birds get into the fruit?

10:40 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kylee,
I agree the bittersweet fruit looks quite pretty when isolated like in the photo. Unfortunately some of the most noxious weeds are quite beautiful but you don't want to have this vine smothering your trees.

Thank you Wuttisak for the link to your orchid care blog where you have wonderful tips and information on all sorts of orchids. Thanks for stopping by.


Hi Gina,
I really haven't seen any birds in the "Burning Bush" but I see an occasional tiny plant sprouting beneath the bush. I guess the bush seeds are fertile but I haven't seen it sprout anywhere else in the garden. My guess is that the birds don't eat the fruit. The bittersweet on the other hand seems to be spread everywhere so the birds probably do eat the fruit though I haven't witnessed the act.

4:38 AM  
Blogger Entangled said...

Thanks for posting those photos of E. alatus fruit! I never noticed them before and would never have thought to look, but now I'm going to go check out some in the neighborhood.

I used to have a bittersweet vine, which was sold to me as C. scandens, but I'm not sure that's what it was. It started to sprout quite a lot of suckers, so I began to wonder if I really had C. orbiculatus instead. I had trained it up the bare trunk of a big Virginia pine tree in the woods, but we had the tree cut down several years ago and the bittersweet went with it. I pulled up the remaining suckers but I still see a new shoot every now and then. I'd plant it again if I could be sure that I was getting C. scandens.

12:16 PM  
Blogger kate said...

I love the fruit on the Burning Bush - I was stunned to see them for the first time on my Burning Bush (which, if I remember correctly, Entangled said was a different variety ... Mine is called Turkestan Burning Bush). It was sold to me as a Willow, and really didn't come into its own until this year.

American Bittersweet grows here, although it suffers quite a bit of winter kill. I've yet to have berries on mine, even though I am supposed to have both male and female vines.

I was really interested to hear about the encaustic wax process you used. It sounded pretty labour-intensive. When I want to use colour, so far, I've just melted crayon and dripped it on and smooshed it about. I've become totally addicted to beeswax. It is wonderful to work with.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Entangled,
I was wandering around the yard trying to find things to photograph when I passed by the Burning Bush. Since other Euonymus were fruiting I checked the bush to see if there were fruits too - that's how inconspicuous they are. It may be that we are conditioned to look at the leaf color so we miss seeing the partially hidden fruit. It is fairly easy to miss them. The color and the beauty of the E. alatus fruit surprised me too. They are rather small though. The photograph exaggerates the size of the fruit.

I don't know how the taxonomists distinguish characterists of C. orbiculatus against C. scandens but the photos of the leaves of C. orbiculatus seem flatter and round in shape while in C. scandens the leaves are folded and elliptic. The veins seem more prominent in E. scandens too. Seems whichever you have is quite persistent.

Let me know if your neighbors' burning bush are also fruiting.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kate,
I remember seeing your Tukestan burning bush and how pretty it was with the pink fruit hanging from it. I believe many people also commented how wonderful the bush looked. I think you got the better of the deal if they sold it to you as a willow. I would trade a willow any day for the Turkestan!

I'm not realy keen on vines because they need support and they have a nasty habit of climbing trees and are difficult to dislodge because of their twining habit. So no bittersweet for me I'm afraid. Hope yours does well so you have some fruit one day.

The encaustic painting was very time consuming and even more so because we had to do it exactly as they did in ancient times except for the burning in part using an electric lamp ;) We even had to grind the pigments. I think you can buy dry pigments from a good art supply store but be careful because some of the pigments are highly toxic. Using crayons is a much safer alternative and quite acceptable too. You may sacrifice a little transparency of the color but otherwise you have so many colors to choose from including gold and silver! I remember when the metallic colors were first sold. Kids went nuts and had to be the first to have them. Just about that time Crayola also came out with the giant 88? color pack. Wow! Everyone had to have those too.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

A lot of wholesale nurseries around here won't sell the Euonymus anymore. I was beginning to wonder if there was a law. It is very invasive and the woods are full of it here. It doesn't get the nice color in the woods, kind of a washed out pink. I won't be planting anymore of it as I find even the 'compact' ones seem to always get too big and require a lot of pruning. Don't even get me started on the Bittersweet. Let's just say it isn't a good garden plant in my opinion.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Chris,

I've always disliked the Burning Bush we have but it's on the north side of the house and acts as a pretty effective windbreak for some azaleas and rhodies so we've kept it so far. I've been reading more and more about its invasive qualities yet I see them planted everywhere in our neighborhood. At one time it must have been touted as a "must have" plant. Some around our neighborhood do turn a brilliant red though so I can see why people would want one in their yard. Yeah, bittersweet vines are all over the trees around these parts as well as Japanese honeysuckle another vigorous invasive.

6:21 PM  

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