The original case of identity theft perpetrated in the United States was probably against the Eastern Wahoo whose name and place in the landscape was stolen by the Winged Euonymus.
The Eastern Wahoo is a native plant of exceptional quality in that it is low maintenance, hardy, and has great interest with its dark purple berries and brilliant red leaves. In the late 19th Century this plant was used in the formal landscape as it could be trained into a hedge and called Burning Bush; however, it was replaced by its cousin the Winged Euonymus (Euonymous alatus) which has since picked up the name of Burning Bush. The major problem is that Winged Euonymus aka Burning Bush which grows faster and is a bit smaller is a highly invasive Asian import that is killing off many native species, whereas the Eastern Wahoo is a native shrub that stays put. As far as appearance they are similar, yet the native Eastern Wahoo tends to be richer in fall color and has more interest with the dark purple berries.
In Jefferson County, the Eastern Wahoo used to be found in great quantities along the banks of Yellow Creek; however, farming and logging eliminated most of the population. The plant is host to 14 different butterflies and caterpillars and is a specific host to the Wahoo Moth, a cool little white moth with black polka dots. If the Eastern Wahoo is not there the moth is not capable of feeding its young. The berries on the shrub are favored by a host of birds and mammals. The compact branching also provides plenty of spaces for birds to nest.
The Eastern Wahoo should be used in the landscape as a native alternative to the invasive Burning Bush. The rich fall colors burn a bright red in the fall months giving dramatic elements to the landscape. The texture of the Eastern Wahoo also is a nice contrast to some larger-leafed shrubs or trees and provides winter interest with its branching habits when the leaves drop. Bird lovers should plant the shrub as a great food source and abode for their feathered friends. ■