Eastern wahoo is a large shrub/small tree with a spreading, irregular crown. Interesting bark variations: the central trunk and older branches are rough and gray, twigs are lime-green and bordered by corky lines, while new shoots are entirely green. Leaves are dark green above, and paler and slightly hairy underneath, turning red in fall. Small, purple, 4-petaled flowers are followed by fuschia-colored, four-lobed, smooth fruit capsules which dangle from the branches. The seed pods split in mid-autumn to reveal scarlet-coated seeds which hang on long into winter. Gorgeous fall color!
All parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.
Eastern wahoo is sometimes called burning bush, but I don’t like this common name. It confuses this beautiful sustaining native with that nonnative burning bush (Euonymus alatus).
E. atropurpureus is an adaptable shrub which tolerates a wide range of soils Though quite shade-tolerant, it does well in full sun as well. It will not tolerate wet, poorly drained soil. Reproduces by reseeding.
Attracts small bees, beetles and flies. Larval host to certain moths. Some birds may eat the seeds.
Height: 12-20 ft.
Spread: 15-25 ft.
Family: Celastraceae (bittersweet)
Bloom time: June
Sun: full sun to part shade
Deer and rabbits may browse
photo credit: Virginia State Park staff