Trees With Flowers Or Fruits - The Burning Bush
( Originally Published 1927 )
American gardeners cherish with regard that amounts almost to affection any shrub or tree which will lend color, especially brilliant color, to the winter landscape. Thus the holly, the Japanese barberry, many of the haws, the mountain ash, and the rugosa rose will be found in the shrubbery borders of many gardens, supplying the birds with food when the ground is covered with snow, and sprinkling the brightness of their red berries against the monotony of dull green conifers.
The burning bush (Euonymus atropurpureus, Jacq.) lends its scarlet fruits to the vivid colors that paint any winter landscape. They hang on slender stalks, clustered where the leaves were attached. Four flattish lobes, deeply separated by constrictions, form each of these strange-looking fruits. In October each is pale purplish in color and one half an inch across. Now the husk parts and curls back, revealing the seeds, each of the four enveloped in a loose scarlet wrinkled coat. Until midwinter the little tree is indeed a burning bush, glowing brighter as the advancing season opens wider the purple husks, and the little swinging Maltese cross, made by the four scarlet berries, is the only thing one sees, looking up from below. Birds take the berries, though they are bitter and poisonous.
In spring the slender branchlets of this little tree are covered with opposite, pointed leaves, two to five inches long, and in their axils are borne purplish flowers, with four spreading recurving petals. In the centre of each is sup-ported a square platform upon which are the spreading anthers and styles. It does not require much botanical knowledge to see a family relationship between this tree and the woody vine we call "bitter-sweet "; the flowers and fruits are alike in many features.
In Oklahoma and Arkansas and eastern Texas the burning bush becomes a good-sized tree and its hard, close-grained wood is peculiarly adapted to making spindles, knitting needles, skewers, and toothpicks. "Prickwood is the English name. Chinese and Japanese species have been added to our list of flowering trees and vines. Two shrubby species of Euonymus belong to the flora of North America, but the bulk of the large family is tropical.
Our dainty little American tree skirts the edges of deep woods from New York to Montana, and southward to the Gulf. In cultivation it extends throughout New England. "Wahoo," the common name in the South, is probably of Indian origin.