The burning bush shrub, or euonymus alatus, is a deciduous, ornamental plant that grows rapidly and can reach heights in excess of 15 feet – depending on the species. Burning bushes belong to the large celastraceae family, and are native to areas of central Japan, Korea and China, as well as more easterly portions of Asia. These plants are made up of ridged, upright stems; ovate leaves that are terminate in a deep point; and small, white, nondescript flowers which develop into small red berries. What makes this shrub outstanding is its range of exquisite colors. During the spring and summer months, this plant’s foliage is a cool blueish green shade; however, when fall hits, their hue changes to a vibrant, fiery red which remains bright for several weeks.

Although the burning bush shrub is undoubtedly lovely to look at, it is – in its native regions – rapidly becoming an invasive plant that is beginning to grow outside of its natural habitat. Even though this may seem like a bad thing now it may, in fact, come in handy. In May of 2010 a study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes a number of new genetic discoveries. These discoveries indicate that by inserting certain genes of the burning bush shrub into the mustard weed, enzymes become encoded which result in an uncommon compound – acetyl glyceride. In a demonstration, the acetyl glycerides created an oil that was cooler and lower in viscosity than regular oils, and thus, make it an exceptionally useful biofuel for diesel engines. In addition to that, acetyl glycerides contain a considerably low calorie count, and can potentially make for a fantastic substitute to regular vegetable oils.

The Latin word alatus means “winged.” Although this is a reference to the structure of the plant itself, it may very well lend to its symbolism. Even though the burning bush shrub is not rife with concrete symbolism, it is not difficult to associate it with the freedom that goes along with “wings,” or the passion that can be evoked with its wild red hue. It addition to that, because of its unusual name, burning bushes are sometimes considered a religious emblem. As a gift, these plants can be given in large containers, and are almost always given purely for their stunning appearance. Though they are generally maintenance free, these shrubs are best presented to experienced gardeners who know how to tame them.