Trailing Strawberry Bush 2009

by Carl Strang

A continuing study that I began in the 1980’s regards a low forest shrub, the trailing strawberry bush (Euonymus obovatus), at Meacham Grove Forest Preserve. Last year I outlined the history of this study. The plant’s nemesis, colonial web-spinning caterpillars of a tiny ermine moth, have been absent from the scene since 2002, and did not return in 2009. The photo below shows a caterpillar-free sprig this past June.


September is when I make my annual check of Euonymus patches at Meacham. Leaf consumption by herbivores was minimal in 2009, less than 10% in 14 of 16 surviving patches. The other two patches lost around 10%. Though the plants were affected by a controlled burn in 2007, the net effect for them appears to have been positive as competitors were hurt more than were Euonymus. Of the 16 patches, 14 showed growth in 2009, one was the same size as last year, and one was smaller. The median product of patch length x width is 5.5 m2, an increase from last year’s value of 1 m2. Since these patches are rather sprawling, containing a lot of empty space, a better measure is the rough coverage if the scattered elements of the patch all were brought together. In 2009 the range was 0.01 – 2 m2, median 0.25 m2. Even 2 m2 apparently did not provide enough photosynthetic power for fruit production. I have not seen fruit at Meacham since 2002.

Euonymus obovatus fruit b

However, if growth continues I expect to find the beautiful fruits of these plants returning in the next few years.

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