Invasive 'burning bush' getting genetic makeover

By STEPHANIE REITZ | August 21, 2011 | 12:45 PM EDT

This October 2006 photo released by the University of Connecticut shows Euonymus alata shrubs known as burning bushes in Storrs, Conn. Twenty one states have banned the popular plant, which produces so many seeds that its growth is hard to control. But a University of Connecticut scientist has found a way to stop its unwanted spread by, in effect, neutering it. (AP Photo/University of Connecticut, Yi Li)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Researchers say they've found a way to curb the invasive tendencies of the popular burning bush shrub without sacrificing its blazing autumn hues.

The ornamental bush generates $38 million in sales nationwide each year, but it's on 21 states' invasive plants list and is banned for sale entirely in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

That's because its tiny seeds spread so far, and because its roots and canopy of leaves are so dense that it robs neighboring plants of sunlight and soil nutrients.

The genetic research by Dr. Yi Li (YEE' LEE') and his team at the University of Connecticut resulted in a seedless, non-invasive version that horticulture experts say could be a boon for landscapers and gardeners. It could reach the retail market in the next few years.