Shrub less than 45 cm tall, trailing stems to 1 m long Leaves: opposite to subopposite, very short and sometimes winged stalk, dull medium to dark green above, paler beneath. Terminal leaves are 3 - 6 cm long, 2 - 4.5 cm wide, and inversely egg-shaped, and lateral leaves are smaller, inversely egg-shaped or lance-shaped to oval. All leaves have a wedge-shaped base, a blunt to pointed tip, are toothed, and remain green into early winter. Flowers: solitary or in clusters of two to five in leaf axils, greenish purple, 6 - 8 mm wide, five-petaled. Fruit: a three-lobed capsule on a drooping stalk, pale orange to scarlet red, 1.5 cm wide, spherical to heart-shaped with a flattened base and a warty surface, splitting to reveal one or two seeds covered with a scarlet red coating (aril). Twigs: green to purple, smooth, ridged or angled, with trailing stems rooting into the ground. Form: trailing, creating a dense mat.
Similar species: Euonymus fortunei is an aggressive vine that forms a groundcover and climbs up structures and trees. It has evergreen leaves that are egg-shaped and paler along major veins, four-parted flowers, and smooth fruits.
Flowering: mid May to late June
Habitat and ecology: Locally common in rich woods and wooded dune slopes.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Euonymus obovata is sometimes planted as a groundcover on shaded slopes. The fruit and leaves are considered poisonous to humans, but birds eat the fruit and deer and rabbits eat the leaves and stems.
Etymology: Euonymus is the ancient Greek name for the genus. Obovata means "inverted egg-shaped," referring to the leaves.
Author: The Morton Arboretum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Infrequent in rich, moist soil, mostly in beech and sugar maple and white oak woods. It is to be noted that we have no records for the extreme southwestern counties although I have botanized this area intensively.
Prostrate shrub, the slender stems taking root, often sending up a few branches rarely to 3 dm; lvs thin, on petioles 3-5 mm, the terminal ones obovate, 3-6 cm, the lower usually somewhat narrower and smaller; fls 5-merous, greenish-purple, axillary, solitary or in cymes of 2-5, 6-8 mm wide; pet scarcely narrowed at base; fr usually 3-lobed, strongly tuberculate, 1.5 cm thick. Rich moist woods and hillsides; w. N.Y. to Mich., s. to W.Va., Ky., and Mo. May.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.