Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Euonymus americanus

Euonymus americanus is displaying its gorgeous ripened fruit in my garden. The stems and leaves are deer candy and I count myself lucky to have any of the brilliant red fruit on the shrub this fall.
photo taken at Edwin Warner Park

 Strawberry bush/Hearts-a-bustin' is a delicate, airy deciduous shrub that can grow to 10' tall under ideal conditions. Which means it's closer to 5 foot in my garden. It is native to wooded slopes, moist woodland and creek or river areas, and is found in a variety of soil conditions ranging from sandy to clay. The typical range is from New York coast all the way south and across Texas and inland to the midwest from all those points. (source)
 5 green petals which frequently have a reddish tinge

If a plant were to be chosen just for its bloom, Strawberry bush might not make the cut. Most people are under awed by the Spring flowers, in fact, they might even miss them. They are tiny and pale with 5 green petals that have a reddish tinge. In order to see them you are going to have to get quite close, which might mean getting down on your knees, since they're only 1/2 inch wide! I think they're worth crawling around on the woodland floor to see.
as they ripen they look like strawberries and give rise to one of its common names~Strawberry bush. 
The flower which is pollinated by small flies, ants and other pollinators produces  gumdrop-sized, bumpy green fruit that ripens from green, to pale pink and finally to a rich red in late summer. The  deep red fruit are thought to resemble strawberries.
MOBOT photo

As they open to reveal scarlet seedheads, the capsules split into heart shaped segments thus giving rise to another common name, Hearts-a-bustin.
Day-Glo orange arils dangle like bright ornaments
The understated and too often underappreciated Euonymus americanus is not invisible once those dangling dayglo seeds burst into the spotlight and when its leaves take on their fall coloring, a  translucent white, washed with shades of red and orange.
The inconspicuous flowers attract small bees and flies.

I love this marvelous semi evergreen native with its spindly branches, its unusual spring flowers, its developing strawberry fruits, and its gorgeous hearts-a-bustin' open ripe fruit.

...and I appreciate its wildlife value. The inconspicuous flowers attract small bees and flies. The foliage is eaten by moth caterpillars. The aril covering the seed is very attractive to birds and small mammals and is a great source of fat and sugar for these animals (source). Birds that have been observed include the Northern Flicker, Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Cardinal, and Eastern Towhee. (Source: Morton Arboretum). Visiting birds help spread the seeds to new locations. 

This gardener thinks it's time for more nurseries to offer this striking native shrub to gardeners who appreciate the different and unusual.

The particulars
Botanical name: Euonymus americanus
Common Name: strawberry bush, hearts-a-bustin
Phonetic Spelling  yoo-ON-ih-mus a-mer-ih-KAY-nus
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Celastraceae
Native Range: Eastern United States. The typical range is from New York coast all the way south and across Texas and inland to the midwest from all those points.
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May (Zone7a)
Flower: Not a flashy flower, Green to greenish-yellow with purple stamens
Fruit: Showy in fall
Leaf: Pale fall leaf color. Looks great in a woodland garden
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Wildlife value: Birds, small flies and bees 
Comments: Will grow in clay soil, tolerates black walnuts, Deer candy. Poisonous, plant away from children who might be tempted by their strawberry looks.
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize. It will set seed and in ideal conditions could form a thicket.

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Please add your url to Mr Linky and leave a comment. 
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I have seen Hearts-A-Bustin' growing wild in the woods in Tennessee beside a walking trail on the Natchez Trace Parkway. An amazing plant!
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!

    1. I see it in the woodlands along trails, too. Happy WW.

  2. We see that a lot over here too Gail. The autumn fruits and colour are spectacular!

    I'm delighted to contribute to Wildflower Wednesday this month with a new-to-me recent discovery, which may be more familiar to readers on your side of the pond :)

    1. I am delighted you joined us to share a pretty native!

  3. I love this plant! Fortunately the deer haven't found it yet. I need to get out to the woods to see if mine have busted open yet.

    1. Those hungry and pesky deer! I hope it's safe.

  4. Ooops, I took two places!

    Those bright pods are gorgeous on the Euonymus. I can see why you like it so much.

  5. I'm too cold for this plant, but what a fun one! Unfortunately, with climate change it probably won't be long before I'm a zone 6. :(

    1. I did read that you have Euonymus atropurpureus instead. It's pretty cool.

  6. An interesting plant. I don't think I have had the pleasure of seeing this one. It must not grow here.

  7. What a great plant. There's a closely related shrub with the wonderful name of Eastern Wahoo.

  8. Catching up after 3 weeks away.
    Thank you for hosting.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson