The Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee of Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture voted to add burning bush to their list of banned plants, classifying the non-native species as a Class B noxious weed and prohibiting its sale across the state by early 2023.
State policymakers describe burning bush (Euonymus alatus) as “a non-native widely planted landscape shrub popular for its fire-engine-red fall foliage.” Its shrubs are known to grow up to 15 feet in height, and it has been a popular addition to Pennsylvania landscapes for decades, namely for its durability, shearability, and dense growth habit.
Burning bush, however, is an invasive species, and policymakers say that “once established it will displace native vegetation” due to its high adaptability and ability to flourish in different environments. The shrub also produces small red berries that birds like to eat, which they then spread to unwanted areas where they take root and out-compete local species.
State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding testified at a legislative hearing last year about the devastating effects of invasive species on native environments. Redding stated that invasive species, i.e. bugs, diseases, and plants, all together cause an estimated $120 billion in damages and losses per year throughout the United States.
“Invasive plants out-compete our native plants and trees for nutrients and sunlight, resulting in dramatic changes to the composition and structure of our forests and natural areas,” Redding said at the hearing. “After habitat loss, invasive species are the second greatest contributor to loss of biodiversity and species extinctions.”
Sales of burning bush are planning to be phased out by January 10th of this coming year, at which point a grace period for retailers will be announced in conjunction with procedures for vendors and native alternatives that homeowners can cultivate instead, according to Shannon Powers, press secretary for the Department of Agriculture.
“Homeowners will not be asked to remove bushes, but to consider replacing them and control the spread of existing shrubs,” added Powers.
Additionally, Powers announced that two other species (Japanese barberry and flowering pear trees) are scheduled to be banned for sale in the near future. Japanese barberry sales will be banned beginning October 8, 2023 while the ban for flowering pears is scheduled for February 10, 2024.
Even more plants are expected to be added to the list as the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee evaluates other species identified as invasive.
These plants and other species on the noxious-weed list can be sold up until their cutoff dates, but officials recommend against it. Powers said, “we would highly discourage homeowners and landscapers from purchasing them and instead encourage them to plant native, non-invasive alternatives.”