Euonymus atropurpureus

Euonymus atropurpureus eastern wahoo

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

The Eastern wahoo, a small deciduous native tree or shrub is a member of the bittersweet family. The Eastern wahoo is found through the eastern half of North America. It is often found along stream banks, but also in meadows and open woodlands.  The opposite leaves are dark green and egg-shaped or elliptical, short-pointed and fine-toothed. The plant normally grows 6 to 12 feet tall, but occasionally can reach a height of 25 feet. Thus in Pennsylvania forests it is considered an understory tree. The species is native only to the southern counties of Western Pennsylvania growing as far north as Beaver and Butler counties. It does also occur in the southern part of the Laurel Mountains in Pennsylvania.

The flowers bloom in clusters from the leaf axils in June and July. These have four brown-purple petals and 4 green sepals. They are not very spectacular, only about ½ inch in diameter, and are often overlooked. In the fall the tree produces its fruit and is much more colorful. This fruit is a smooth reddish or pink four-lobed capsule formed from the bracts. When mature the capsule opens to expose four fleshy red fruits called arils. Each contains two seeds. Because of the shape and color of the fruit, it is sometimes called “Hearts Bursting with Love.” Fruiting occurs from August to November and become most visible when the leaves fall from the tree. The fruit is eaten by birds that help spread the seeds, but does not seem to be their first choice of food. It is poisonous to humans. Native Americans and pioneers used the powdered bark as a purgative.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Occasional in moist woods and floodplain thickets on limestone or diabase.

Mostly found in the south and central parts of the state.

Wetland codes

Flowers June to July.

Fruits August through September.

Leaves  simple, oval, with pointed tip and very finely-toothed margins; oppositely attached, dull green with pubescent undersides

Bark  smooth; green-gray with reddish brown streaks

Flower  4-petaled purple flower

Fruit  4-lobed capsule with 4 seeds; turns red at maturity

Fall color  Red

S-rank:  S4 (Apparently Secure)
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Euonymus atropurpureus eastern wahoo

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Euonymus atropurpureus gallery
Plant Life-Form
deciduous shrub or tree
Common Names
eastern wahoo eastern spindle-tree