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Laura Klein
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Hello,

When we bought our home it came with 4 burning bushes (I am pretty sure), and this weekend we have inherited like 4 or 5 more when my husband was helping out with a landscaping project.  We have inherited more useful and beautiful plants, but don't know what to do about the burning bushes as I know they are considered invasive.  We are located in urban Norfolk Virginia, and area prone to flooding and our site is particularly vulnerable to soil erosion b/c of compaction.  I am trying to decide between uprooting the 10 or so burning bushes and burning them or in some way disposing of them, or using them along our street facing corner lot to prevent soil erosion until we can afford to buy some more environmentally friendly shrubs. 

Basically I am wondering if they can be useful on our compacted, sometimes flooded site or if they do more harm than good and should be disposed of in some way.

Thank you all!
 
Daron Williams
Posts: 138
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello!

Dealing with invasive plants can be a bit of touchy subject. For one a plant that is invasive in one area is not in another. Burning bush is not an invasive plant in my area for example. Another is that some people take issue with the idea of invasive plants - personally I think there are very good reasons to be careful with invasive plants - as someone who restores degraded lands for my work I have seen how damaging specific invasive plants can be on a local environment. But invasive is a hard word to define since a plant can be non-native but not invasive. The vast majority of non-native plants are not invasive. In my area the term 'invasive' is often used but has no legal status - Washington State has legally defined certain plants as noxious weeds and broken those down into different classes depending on how much of an impact they have and if it has naturalized or not. Only a very small number of plants are classified in a manner where you have to remove them if they are on your property. Another group are classified in a manner where it is recommended that you remove the plant but not required. Then there is a third group that are so widespread that they are considered naturalized and while it can still be recommended that they are controlled it is not required or considered vital outside of critical wildlife habitat areas. While your area may not have the same legal framework I do think this is a decent way to think about a potentially invasive plant.

So building on that here is a thought process you could go through when trying to decide to remove a specific plant from your property. Is the species naturalized? If so then having it on your property is not a huge deal - removing the species and replacing it with natives may improve your land for wildlife habitat but as long as the species is not creating a monoculture or pushing out established native plants it is likely not necessary. If the species is not naturalized then it is likely more important to remove it since this could help keep it from further spreading to new locations off your property - this is especially true for species that tend to form monocultures or that will push out established native species. If the seeds of the species can be transported by birds, wind, water or land animals over a decent distance then it may also be more critical to remove the plant. You may be able to control it on your property but your neighbor or someone a couple miles away may not control it if it shows up on their land which could cause widespread issues.

I know I'm not answering your question directly but the above is a way of thinking through whether or not to remove any particular invasive species from your property that I find appropriate for my place. I don't know what the legal framework is in your area but here in Washington State there are noxious weed control boards in each county. While I know some people may not like this level of bureaucracy I have had good luck calling them and getting advice about specific species of plants and their websites are often very useful. Another option if your area does not having something like the above boards is to reach out to your local conservation district. I think most (if not all) counties in the USA have conservation districts and they would be able to answer any questions you might have about burning bush in your area in regards to it being invasive and if it should be removed.

I looked up the burning bush and it sounds like it spreads via suckers and seeds. The seeds are spread by birds and the suckers of course are more localized but could be an issue on your own property. I don't know the status of the burning bush in terms of being naturalized or not in your area but if it is not since it is spread by birds and will spread via suckers once a plant is established it might be a good idea to remove it. But if it is naturalized then removing the small number of plants you have will not make much of a difference if any.

On my property I'm removing all invasive plants that I have but not all at once. The ones that spread the fastest and form monocultures are the first I'm removing first. I'm not trying to remove all non-native plants since very few are actually invasive and they can provide a lot of benefits.

So after typing all that I got curious and decided to look up how bad of an invasive plant burning bush is in your area. According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) it is ranked "high". Here is what that means according to DCR:

Invasiveness ranks (I-ranks) reflect the level of threat to forests and other natural communities and native species. I-ranks used on the list are high, medium and low.

High Species poses a significant threat to native species, natural communities or the economy.

Medium Species poses a moderate threat to native species, natural communities or the economy.

Low Species poses a low threat to native species, natural communities or the economy.

Invasiveness rank increases for species that:

Alter natural processes, such as water flow or soil chemistry.
Invade undisturbed natural areas.
Cause substantial impacts on rare or vulnerable native species or natural areas.
Are found widely distributed and generally abundant where present.
Disperse readily to new places.
Require significant resources to manage and control.


Based on the above information I would recommend not keeping it around and instead finding a different plant or plants to replace it with. But someone from your area might have a better understanding of what a "high" ranking means.

Here is a link that I used that you might find useful to look up other species:

  • Virginia Invasive Plant Species List


  • I would use the scientific name for a species when possible when using the site. It found nothing when I entered "burning bush" because it is using "Winged Euonymus" as its common name but it worked fine when I used the scientific name for burning bush" Euonymus alatus.

    Long response but it can get a bit complicated when trying to decide what to do with an invasive species and I think having a way to think about it can help. The above thought process works for me and I hope you find it helpful!
     
    Laura Klein
    Posts: 2
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    Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, Daron!  Your link confirms what I had suspected, I just felt guilty destroying plants for some reason.  May I ask how you are disposing of your invasives?  I can only think of burning them which obviously releases more carbon but does the job.  Or I could bury them in some sad Hugelkultur attempt.  Thank you and good luck with your gradual replacement approach, I think we will adopt the same!  It appears none of the other plants on our property are considered invasive though many are non edible and non native. 
     
    Daron Williams
    Posts: 138
    Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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    Really depends on the species. I have some piles of one's I removed and I'm just letting them fully dry out and die over the summer - I removed them last fall. Some species need to be kept off the ground so they don't root but otherwise just letting them dry out does the trick. Once you are sure they are dead then just treat them like any other woody plant material. Also, running them through a chipper should work. Some plants  (knot weed!) can sprout from the pieces but most can't. I'm going to be using a flail mower to cut and mulch a bunch of stuff on my property. My guess is letting the burning bushes dry out would work fine but you might have to remove suckers - just keep up on it and don't let the get re-established. Good luck!
     
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