Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) features maroon flowers in the spring, striking red and pink fruit in late summer and pink to red fall colors. The colorful fruit can persist until mid-winter, after the leaves have fallen. The fruit’s crimson pods split in mid-autumn to reveal scarlet-coated seeds. This exotic appearance of the opened fruit gives wahoo another less common name, “Hearts Bursting with Love”
The best fall color comes from full sun exposure, However, wahoo tolerates part sun and a wide range of soil conditions, with the exception of soggy, wet soil. Wahoo can range in size from a shrub (up to about 8 feet) to a small tree (15 to 25 feet in height), usually only reaching the small tree size in warmer locations. Size also depends on plant placement and basic pruning. Even the fastest growing wahoo can be pruned annually to maintain the shrub size, if that is desired.
Eastern wahoo is so similar to the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) that one could easily mistake the two species. The fact that both scientific names begin with “Euonymus” shows that they are close cousins botanically. This similarity makes it an ideal replacement for burning bush. Remember that eastern wahoo, unlike burning bush, has stems with leaves, flowers with four reddish petals, showy fruit, and no “wings” on the stems.
Wahoo is not available at most ordinary nurseries or home repair stores. Most often you will have to order it by mail or Internet or visit a nursery that specializes in native plants. Though wahoo seeds are readily available from many sources, plants are harder to come by. Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, Minnesota often has plants. Naturally Native Nursery in South Bend will order them if they don’t have them in stock. Cardno Native Plant Nursery in Walkerton sometimes has them. We also recommend local native plants sales held by not-for-profits like Friends of the Dunes in spring and the North Chapter of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society in the fall.
If you have questions about eastern wahoo or other native or non-native plants, don’t hesitate to contact Terry Bonace (firstname.lastname@example.org), Candice Smith (email@example.com), or Bill Schaudt (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. Also please visit our website, www.bserg.org, for further information on invasive plants and native replacements.