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TREES & plants

Wahoo

The fruit of the wahoo.

Wahoo is a native small tree or large shrub  found as an understory plant in rich woods and along stream banks. It is colony-forming plant with small purple, hanging flowers in spring and beautiful fall color and 4-capsuled fruit in fall.  It may be difficult to find in nurseries.

"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."   

Botanical name: 
Euonymus atropurpureus
All Common Names: 
Wahoo, Eastern Wahoo, Eastern burning bush
Family (English): 
Staff-tree
Family (Botanic): 
Celastraceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Utility
  • Massing
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Purple
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Round
  • Thicket-forming
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size and Form

12 to 20 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide; upright, irregular form; can form colonies.

Tree & Plant Care

Removal of suckers may be needed to control size.

Disease, pests and problems

Euonymus scale

Disease, pests and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Common along streams.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray and relatively smooth, developing splits as it ages.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite leaves, oval with a very finely toothed edge; dark green; 2 to 5 inches long.
Fall color is pink to red.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small, maroon flowers with 4 petals; on long stalks in loose clusters in later spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

This plant yields an attractive, 4-lobed reddish-pink fruit capsule with scarlet aril

Related Species

Strawberry-bush Euonymus (Euonymus americanus): Also known as American euonymus is a open, suckering shrub reaching 4 to 6 foot high often found in low, moist wooded landscapes and swampy areas. All parts of the shrub are green. The fruit resembles a strawberry. May be difficult to find in nurseries.