Euonymus atropurpureus (Eastern Wahoo)

Plant Info
Also known as: Burning-bush, Spindle-tree
Family:Celastraceae (Staff-tree)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; average moisture; woodland edges, floodplains, stream banks, river terraces, wooded slopes
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 20 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching clusters of 7 to 15 flowers arising from leaf axils of the lateral branchlets along 1-year-old stems. Flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch across, maroon to dark reddish-purple, with 4 petals that are somewhat triangular and softly pointed at the tip. In the center is a 4-lobed maroon to purple ovary with a single short, yellow stamen on each lobe and a stubby green style in the center. Behind the flower are 4 short sepals. Stalks and sepals are hairless.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and opposite (or nearly so), 2 to 6 inches long, 1 to 2½ inches wide, generally elliptic, widest at or near the middle, tapering or wedge-shaped at the base, the tip pointed or tapering to a sharp point, sometimes abruptly so, finely toothed around the edges, hairless on the upper surface, finely hairy on the lower. Stalks are ¼ to 2/3 inch long and hairless. Leaves turn yellow in fall.

[photo of striped stem] New branchlets are weakly 4-sided, green and hairless, developing lines of pale, corky tissue along the angles that give it a striped appearance, but eventually fade away. Branches turn brown with age. Buds are cone-shaped with a sharply pointed tip. Bud scars are very light brown, nearly white.

[photo of trunk] Older bark is gray to gray-brown, thin and smooth to slightly rough. Trunks can reach 1½ inches diameter at breast height (dbh). Stems are usually single, branches are few and erect to ascending, the shrub taking on an irregularly shaped crown. Loose colonies may form from long rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a capsule about ½ inch across, initially green, turning pinkish and maturing to red, typically 4-lobed but not all lobes may develop equally. When ripe, the capsule splits open revealing 1 to 4 fleshy, bright red fruits called arils, each containing 2 seeds.


Eastern Wahoo reaches the northern edge of its range in Minnesota. While having a widespread distribution in the southern half of the state, is not commonly encountered nor found in any great abundance. It is easily distinguished when flowering or fruiting. When flowers or fruits are absent, the somewhat sporadic branching combined with opposite, serrated leaves hairy on the underside, and squarish stems, at least some of which should have remnants of the corky lines, should be helpful for an ID.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Falls Creek SNA in Washington County, and her backyard garden. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in various nurseries and private gardens.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Emily A - Upper Sioux Agency State Park - Yellow Medicine County
on: 2016-11-09 13:41:24

We have at least three in the park. One conveniently located right in the middle of the Yellow Medicine Campground (to the west of Site 12)

Posted by: Rick C - Luverne
on: 2017-07-21 16:49:17

Wahoo or wild burning bush grows here along the Rock River. I have transplanted some to my yard around 15-20 years ago. I am interested in any possible uses but I really enjoy the red leaves in the fall and the berries.

Posted by: Dona B - Willmar
on: 2017-07-29 13:02:54

information where to find this shrub

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-29 15:52:16

Dona, you can always check the Bell Museum Atlas. Search the Collections for the species name and you'll get a list of where it's been collected in the past. That's not all known locations, but it will give you a starting point. If you're looking for nurseries, check with native plant vendors.

Posted by: R Christensen - Austin, Mn
on: 2017-11-03 11:34:13

We found 3 in a small wooded area in town while clearing some buckthorn.

Posted by: Carolyn S - Roseville
on: 2018-05-19 07:37:33

Does it fruit on old wood and new wood?

Posted by: Thomas Meagher - Owatonna
on: 2018-10-02 11:14:07

A teacher recently brought in a specimen found in rural Steele County near the city of Owatonna. It was the only individual on their forest land and the first I have observed in all the forests around the city of Owatonna.

Posted by: Terri Dugan - Rochester, MN
on: 2018-11-11 08:23:18

We found and identified in West Quarry Hill Park while clearing Amur Honeysuckle and buckthorn. Unfortunately, it has been girdled by rabbits. Several dead trunks next to the one with fruit. We have put tree protector around the this remaining trunk. Does this bush "sucker"? Such a thrill to find a new plant that isn't an invasive!

Posted by: Zach Stammer - RJD forest
on: 2020-10-19 19:52:59

Found one of these recently, wondered what it was then today I found 2 more and collected some seeds. All found in Richard J Dorer State forest, I am building a seed bank of all the rare and unusual trees I find! Someday I hope to have some land I can plant native trees. When you find a piece of the old growth forest down here, they usually only remain on steep slopes that weren't logged, you instantly know it is somewhere special. Awesome website also!!

Posted by: B. McIntyre - Pope County
on: 2021-06-19 12:03:59

A friend of mine sent me a nice potted shrub of Eastern Wahoo and we have just recently planted it on our property. Don't know if it would occur here naturally, but I have found some pretty odd stuff out here in the central west of Minnesota, so it wouldn't surprise me to find Eunonymus atropurpureus here as well. Hopefully, the one we planted will flourish and be the model of fecundity here in rural Pope County for many years.

Posted by: Kris Deters - Along Cannon Valley Trail east of Welsh Mn
on: 2021-10-03 15:31:58

Distinctive 4 lobe seed pods - I wouldn't have noticed it among the sumac without the pods

Posted by: Deane Clark - Minneapolis
on: 2021-10-07 12:04:11

Found a couple of these on Oct 5 2021 in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. The fruit were bright red which drew my attention, and the leaves were reddish-green.

Posted by: Will Petyers - Rice County
on: 2021-10-12 15:55:17

2021 was a heavy fruiting year. Collected several hundred seeds to add to a direct hardwood seeding. Found in both bottomland forest & upland old fence line.

Posted by: Mary Stefanski - Peterson (Fillmore County)
on: 2021-11-18 11:48:23

Noticed three trees for the first time along the Root River bike trail near Peterson. May be more in the area.

Posted by: Naomi Jackson - Minneapolis
on: 2021-11-19 11:13:24

I found two Eastern Wahoos on our grounds along the Mississippi just as we were getting rid of our Euonymus alatus. How fortuitous!

Posted by: Elizabeth R. Tiller - Miesville Ravine Park Dakota Co
on: 2022-10-22 17:41:58

Growing in riparian forest along Cannon River

Posted by: Terri Dugan - Rochester Quarry Hill Park
on: 2024-02-17 08:16:46

I submitted a siting of Eastern Yahoo in 2018. That one tree was girdled by critters. Last Fall I found 6 more in that area. I put tree guards on them. Angela Gupta, Ext Forestry Professor told me that Euonymus Atropurpureus is considered a Climate resilient tree She suggests that I'm seeing that native tree respond positively To our changing climate by increasing in abundance

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