This is a
shrub up to 6' tall or a branching woody vine up to 20'
long. As a woody vine, this plant either sprawls across the ground or
it can climb trees by forming aerial rootlets. Older branches become
reddish brown, rough-textured, and woody, while young shoots are
green, terete, glabrous, and rather stiff. Pairs of opposite leaves
occur at intervals along the young shoots; they are densely
distributed and rather leathery in texture. Mature leaves are 1–2½"
and ¾–1½" across; they are broadly elliptic, ovate, or oval in shape,
while their margins are serrated or serrulate (slightly serrated). The
leaf tips are acute to blunt, while the leaf bases are rounded,
truncate, or cuneate (wedge-shaped). The upper side of leaves is medium
to dark green, hairless, and usually shiny, while the lower side of
leaves is more pale, hairless, and dull. On shoots with immature
leaves, the latter are often conspicuously whitened along the central
veins; flowers and fruits are not produced on such shoots. On shoots
with mature leaves, the latter are less whitened or green along the
central and lateral veins; these shoots usually produce flowers and
fruits. The slender petioles are up to 1/3" (9 mm.) long, light green
to stramineus (straw-colored), and glabrous; some leaves may be nearly
or dome-shaped clusters of flowers up to 3" across develop from
the axils of mature leaves; their peduncles (basal stalks) are up to 4"
long, while their pedicels are up to ½" long. Both peduncles and
pedicels are light green, hairless, and terete. Each flower is about ¼"
across, consisting of 4 greenish white petals, 4 green sepals, 4
spreading stamens, and a green pistil. The widely spreading petals are
oblong-oval to oval in shape, convex along their upper surfaces, and
concave along their lower surfaces; their margins are rolled upward.
sepals are very small, light green, glabrous, joined together at the
base of the flower, and half-rotund in shape along their upper margins.
The conspicuous stamens have white to light green filaments and white
to pale yellow anthers. The blooming period occurs during the summer
for about 3
weeks. Afterwards, fertile flowers are replaced by seed capsules that
become mature during the autumn. Mature seed capsules are white,
globoid, and about ¼" across. Eventually, they split open to reveal
fleshy arils that are orange to red; solitary seeds occurs within these
As a woody vine, this plant can form new rootlets when the nodes
of its branches contact moist soil. In addition, when this vine climbs
it is able to produce aerial rootlets along its branches.
The leaves of this woody plant are evergreen.
The preference is full sun to medium shade, moist to dry-mesic
conditions, and soil containing loam, clay-loam, sand, and gravelly
material. When light intensity is low, only immature leaves are
produced unless this plant is able to climb an adjacent tree or wander
into open ground where the light intensity is greater. After mature
leaves are produced in response to sufficient intensity of light, both
flowers and seed capsules can be produced. This vine can spread
aggressively. It is winter-hardy to at least Zone 5.
Range & Habitat:
So far, Climbing
is relatively uncommon in Illinois
as a naturalized plant (see Distribution
). However, it is
undoubtedly more common within the state than these records indicate.
Climbing Euonymus was introduced into North America from East Asia as
an ornamental landscape plant. It is often cultivated as a ground cover
or shrub, even though it is potentially invasive of natural areas. In
naturalized areas, this woody plant is often found in moist to mesic
woodlands where deciduous trees are dominant. It also found at old
homestead sites, edges of yards, vacant lots, park facilities, and
stream terraces. Fire is not an effective method of control, because
this evergreen woody plant is reluctant to burn and it is able to
regenerate from its root system when fire-related damage occurs.
The only major insect pest of this woody
plant is Unaspis
(Asian Euonymus Scale). This insect sucks sap
from the leaves
and tips of young shoots. The colorful arils containing the seeds are
probably eaten by various birds and distributed to new locations by
them. White-tailed Deer and Cottontail Rabbits browse on the evergreen
foliage of this woody plant, especially during the winter when little
else is available (Zouhar, 2009).
A garden bed at a bank in Urbana, Illinois.
There are many cultivars of Climbing Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei
have been introduced as landscape plants. These cultivars vary from
each other in such characteristics as leaf size, leaf shape, and habit
of growth. At least one cultivar with variegated leaves exists,
although it has not been observed to escape into the wild. Sometimes
cultivars with larger leaves and a shrubby habit of growth are
considered representatives of a distinct species, Euonymus
(Mohlenbrock, 2014). However, other
such cultivars as variants of the same species, Euonymus fortunei
eFloras at www.efloras.org).