Content Detail

Wahoo is a native small tree or large shrub found as an understory plant in rich woods and along stream banks. It is a colony-forming plant. It has small, purple hanging flowers in spring, beautiful fall color and four-capsuled fruit in fall. It may be difficult to find in nurseries. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Staff-tree
  • Family (botanic) Celastraceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest late spring, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Purple
  • Shape or form Irregular, Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and Form: 

A 12 to 20 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide small tree or large shrub with an upright, irregular form. It can form colonies.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

This plant is found in the Chicago area and is common along streams. C-Value: 8

Bark color and texture:  

The bark is gray and relatively smooth, developing splits as it ages.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

Simple, opposite leaves, are oval with a very finely toothed edge. They are dark green and 2 to 5 inches long. The fall color is pink to red.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Small maroon flowers with four petals appear on long stalks, in loose clusters, in late spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

This plant yields an attractive, four-lobed reddish-pink fruit capsule with scarlet aril.


Plant care: 

Removal of suckers may be needed to control the plant size.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Euonymus scale may be a problem on this plant. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Related Species:  Strawberry-bush Euonymus (Euonymus americanus):

Also known as American euonymus, this is an open, suckering shrub reaching 4 to 6 feet high. It is often found in low, moist wooded landscapes and swampy areas. All parts of the shrub are green. The fruit resembles a strawberry. It may be difficult to find in nurseries.


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