When I was first planting a landscape in 2001, I wanted to include some interesting native plants to provide a natural look for the back edges of the property. I was able to find a few less commonly sold natives from a small local nursery including a Bigleaf magnolia, Vaccinium, Sourwood, Cinnamon fern, and Strawberry bush.
Twenty years later, I am still enjoying these natives in my landscape and they are doing well despite my sandy, well drained, nutrient poor conditions. One of my favorites of this group is the Strawberry bush, Euonymous americana.
Strawberry bush is a deciduous shrub that grows about five feet tall. It has multiple stems with new stems forming each season. Since my yard is so dry, my clump is by no means out of bounds after 20 years of growth. Small pale green flowers grow from the nodes in spring. For most of the year, you forget about this plant until one day in the fall, you notice brilliant red fruits that split open to show orange seeds. Another common name is Hearts-a-bustin’.
Despite one of its common names, Strawberry bush is not grown as an edible for people but serves as a wildlife food source. Deer may enjoy leaves and twigs and many birds and small mammals will eat the seeds.
If you find a local nursery that is growing a few, consider adding Strawberry bush to a shaded spot in your landscape.