Euonymus fortunei, Winter Creeper

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species, Extension Master Gardener February 09, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Euonymus fortunei, Winter Creeper

Winter creeper is an evergreen, woody vine that invades forests throughout the Eastern United States. The plant can be a small shrub growing in mats along the forest floor to 3 ft (0.9 m) in height, or a vine climbing trees to heights of 40 to 70 ft (12.2 to 21.3 m). The opposite leaves are dark green, oval, slightly toothed, glossy, thick, and less than 1 in. (2.5 cm) long and often have silvery white venation. The stems are green when young and become light gray and corky with age. Flowers, which develop in midsummer, are inconspicuous, yellow-green, and five-petaled. Plants usually flower only when climbing and almost never when trailing along the ground. Fruit are pinkish red capsules that open to show orange seeds. Winter creeper aggressively invades open forests, forest margins, and openings. The dense ground cover often resulting from an infestation can displace native understory species and restrict tree seedling establishment. Winter creeper also can smother and kill shrubs and small trees. Winter creeper is native to Asia and was introduced in the United States in 1907 as an ornamental ground-cover plant.

What are invasive species, and why should we be concerned about them? 


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Celastrales > Celastraceae > Euonymus fortunei (Turcz.) Hand.-Maz.

Synonym(s): climbing euonymus

Euonymus fortunei - USDA PLANTS Profile

Distribution Maps

winter creeper - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important 

Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way to report the occurrence of an invasive species? 

 How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS.

County Extension Offices - Find your county Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Shrub/Vine

The plant can be a small shrub growing in mats along the forest floor to 3 ft (0.9 m) in height, or a vine climbing trees to heights of 40 to 70 ft (12.2 to 21.3 m).

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, bugwood.org James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org

Foliage

The opposite leaves are dark green, oval, slightly toothed, glossy, thick, and less than 1 in. (2.5 cm) long and often have silvery white venation. The stems are green when young and become light gray and corky with age.

James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org

Flower

Flowers, which develop in midsummer, are inconspicuous, yellow-green, and five petaled. Plants usually flower only when climbing and almost never when trailing along the ground.

James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org

Fruit

Fruit are pinkish red capsules that open to show orange seeds.

bugwood.org bugwood.org

Native Species That Resemble Winter Creeper

Mitchella repens, partridgeberry - Images at invasive.org

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, bugwood.org Wendy VanDyk Evans, bugwood.org

 

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

 

Additional Images for Winter Creeper

winter creeper - Images at invasive.org

 

Learning Resources for Winter Creeper

 

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control program, always refer to the product label .

United States Land-Grant University System - Find your Land-Grant University's College of Agriculture, University Cooperative Extension Service, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA.

Fact Sheet - Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests - USDA Forest Service

A Management Guide for Invasive Plants of Southern Forests - USDA Forest Service

Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas - National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas - Plant Conservation Alliance

Fire Effects Information System - USDA Forest Service

Weed of the Week - USDA Forest Service


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.