Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Burning Bush Be Gone

Invasive species are always a controversial subject: One man's weed is another's treasure. We follow the noxious weed laws but go beyond and try to "deaccession" (a.k.a. remove and properly dispose of) any plant that is not native (exotic) and spreads beyond the gardens and threatens the natural landscape of Powell Gardens and the region.

Some very popular exotic plants are beginning to become threats to the native landscape of our region: Callery pears (Pyrus calleriana), including the cultivar 'Bradford' are one such plant we do not display at Powell Gardens for that reason. Another popular shrub, the burning bush (Euonymus alata), has just been completely removed from Powell Gardens because we see an alarming number of seedlings in the gardens but also beyond on the grounds' woodlands.

A smiling Mark Gawron (Senior Gardener - Island Garden) stands in front of the last of Powell Gardens' burning bushes. We have gradually removed all of this non-native shrub. It is very popular for its watermelon pink/red fall color as well as its corky twigs, which are quite ornamental in winter.

Burning bush is a relative of the bittersweet vine and you can readily see this by its fruit. Unfortunately, birds eat the fruit and disperse its seeds far and wide.

In shrub beds at Powell Gardens, burning bush can literally come up as a carpet of seedlings! This is what the ground looked like beneath the removed burning bushes last week.

Here, Mark and Gardener Cheyenne Schalue clean up the site on the Island Garden where the last burning bushes were removed. The plants will be replaced with another shrub; probably with Missouri's native burning bush called Strawberry Bush or "Hearts-A-Burstin" (Euonymus americana). The native version is slower to establish but forms an upright shrub over time. Its fruit are much showier than the exotic burning bush but its fall color is not as intense (but can be a good pinkish-carmine red).

I took this image of a Burning Bush escaped in the woods at Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area in Benton County. Now is the time to check your woods for this shrub and remove it if you see it. It has the potential to exponentially expand and begin to take over the native understory of our woodlands. If we remove it now, it won't be as big of task as Amur Honeysuckle, Autumn-Olive and Multiflora Rose, which have overtaken so much of our wild lands.

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