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Winter Creeper Euonymus

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Winter Creeper Euonymus
(Euonymus fortunei)

Winter creeper euonymus
Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org  


About Winter Creeper Euonymus: An Invasive Plant in Maryland

Life cycle/information: Winter creeper euonymus (Euonymus fortunei), also called creeping euonymus, is a perennial plant that grows as a groundcover, climbing vine, or sprawling shrub. It was introduced from China in 1907 for use as an ornamental evergreen groundcover. In 1994, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported it as being invasive in natural areas of Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) named winter creeper a Tier 1 invasive plant, as of February 2018. This classification means that a person may not propagate, import, transfer, sell, purchase, transport, or introduce any living part of a Tier 1 invasive plant in the state of Maryland. See the MDA website for additional details.

Growth habit: Winter creeper euonymus is highly variable in its growth habit and appearance. Leaves are evergreen, about 1 inch or less in length, crenate-serrate along the margin, and arranged oppositely along the stem. Leaf color is variable, usually dark green with silver-toned veins. Climbing stems form aerial roots, similar to English ivy.

Winter creeper can be 4-12 inches tall as a groundcover or as high as 70’ as a climbing vine. These plants can also grow in the form of mounding, woody shrubs. The groundcover form restricts growth of native terrestrial plants and the vining form can climb and kill small trees.

Winter creeper euonymus on a tree
Photo: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

Reproduction: Adult plants produce a ⅓” diameter pinkish capsules that open to expose orange seeds in October-November. Birds and other animals aid in seed dispersal. Winter creeper also spreads vegetatively from the roots.

Winter creeper euonymus infloresence
Photo: Ansel Oommen, Bugwood.org

Conditions that favor growth:
Tolerates heavy shade to full sun and variable soil conditions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  What to plant instead: Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). See other options for groundcovers.

Controlling Winter Creeper Euonymus

References

  • Burrell, C. Colston. 2007. Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants. Brooklyn Botanic Garden.Kaufman, Sylvan Ramsey & Wallace Kaufman. 2007. Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species.
  • Maryland Biodiversity Project, Winter Creeper.
  • Swearingen J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.

Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension, 9/2018.

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