More Noxious Weeds

Winged burning bush (photo by James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service via

28 February 2023

Last month the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture added two more landscape plants to the list of Pennsylvania Noxious Weeds: Winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and privet hedge (Ligustrum spp.). They jumped the queue into Class B Noxious Weeds because they are widely established in the wild with no hope of getting rid of them.

Winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus):

Native to China, Japan and Korea winged burning bush is a very popular landscaping plant that is so good at growing in dense shade that it invaded Pennsylvania’s woods. You’ve seen it in your neighborhood in October when the leaves turn bright red or magenta.

Winged burning bush in a parking lot (photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut via
Winged burning bush (photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut via

Right now it is leafless but you can recognize it by the flanges or “wings” on the stems. Here’s what it looks like in summer with opposite leaves on the stem.

Winged burning bush in summer (Chris Evans, University of Illinois via

It’s not as pretty when it escapes to the wild.

Euonymus escaped to the wild (photo by Richard Gardner,

By January 2025 it will be illegal to sell winged burning bush in PA nurseries and garden centers. Meanwhile you’re encouraged to replace it with native species, listed here.

Privet hedge (Ligustrum spp.)

Privet hedge (Ligustrum amurense) (photo by Richard Webb via

Almost everyone knows what a privet hedge is. Privet is the hedge that makes you buy hedge clippers and use them frequently.

Last month the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture declared four species of privet noxious in PA: border privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium), common privet (L. vulgare), Japanese privet (L. japonicum), and Chinese privet (L. sinense). But no Ligustrum is native to the U.S. so if you see privet it’s an alien.

Glossy privet leaves (photo by John Ruter, University of Georgia via

Privet’s ability to bounce back from cutting and regenerate from its roots make it great for borders but tenacious in the wild. I remember how hard it was to get rid of it from the border of my yard. It kept coming back until I dug up the roots.

Privet in the wild is not orderly, not tame at all.

Privet in the wild in the U.S. (photo by John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University,

Just as for winged burning bush, privet will be banned from sale at PA nurseries and garden centers in January 2025. Meanwhile, save yourself time with the hedge trimmers. Dig up those privet roots and plant a native shrub. Substitutes listed here.

(photos from credited in the captions; click on the captions to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “More Noxious Weeds

  1. I noticed this past Fall that Burning Bush is all through Cedar Creek Park. Especially that area where the lovely little Snow Trillium are growing. The Gorge is such an amazing spot, with such a great variety of native wildflowers, but also so many invasives taking over. Now with the new housing going in outside the park, it will only exacerbate the problem. I’ve noticed a lot more bikers riding the Gorge Trail, too. There was even a kid riding a quad along the creek last week.

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