Our Earth: Burning bush isn’t as ‘beautiful’ as its hue

This is the season when burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is in its glory. The rich red of its leaves surely does brighten the landscape. But “Beauty is as beauty does” is applicable here and what burning bush does is not beautiful.

Like privet, this formerly apparently mild-mannered shrub has shown its true colors during the past twenty years as it has spread into woodland communities replacing native shrubs and herbaceous plants on which our wildlife depend.. Birds do eat the small fruits and deposit the seeds along with their own packets of fertilizer throughout our woodlands.

Like other aggressive plants that show up uninvited and proceed to out-compete the natives that are contending with pathogens and predators (all of which the non-natives left behind in their native countries), life changes for wildlife above and below ground, for trees and other plant species, and food chains from weevils to wolves, if we had any.

Knowing the harmful effects on wildlife, many people are removing their burning bushes.

Long a staple of landscaping, this species, native to China and northeast Asia, is easy to spot in the fall. If you find it in your woodlands, consider taking immediate action..

Toni Stahl, Habitat Ambassador Volunteer for the Wildlife Federation, (see her website at www.backyardhabitat.info to learn more) recently listed some things that our culture unfortunately makes frightening especially during Halloween-season as follows:

“Halloween critters are good for our yards instead of scary:

1. Bats are flying mammals that eat night-flying pests, including mosquitoes. Plant flowers that release nectar at night, such as those listed in Attract Bats to Your Yard.

2. Owls provide silent, superior rodent control. Leave up old trees and/or put up an owl nesting box.

3. Most snakes are harmless (like garter snakes) and eat insects, slugs and even small rodents. Add a log pile for a cool, dark home.

4. Spiders protect your yard from plant-eating pests and protect you from insects like mosquitoes. Keep leaves or mulch thick to protect them.

5. Toads eat up to 10,000 insect pests over the course of an average summer. Make a Toad Winter Home .”

I would add cemeteries to her list – a cemetery shaded by many large trees is a place of serenity and quiet and often offers the best bird and other wildlife habitat in an area otherwise covered with wildlife-unfriendly parking lots, streets and buildings.

The really scary things are Non-Native Invasive Species – think garlic mustard, tree-of-heaven, purple loosestrife, emerald ash borer, Asian carp – where to stop?

If our grandchildren are going to enjoy the diversity of plant and animal life that we have, it will be up to each of us to look at our yards and make sure we are part of the solution instead of the problem.

Marilyn Ortt, of Marietta, is a member of the Marietta City Tree Commission. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.