Last month I met a leafy acquaintance from my past at our Elkmont campsite in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
There was little fall color on display during our September visit. The spindly little bush pictured above offered a colorful exception.
I first met Euonymus americanus with its bright red seeds and seedpods in my late mother’s yard. It is commonly called strawberry plant or Hearts-a-Bustin’.
Hearts-a-bustin’ seed pod
Mother had transplanted it from Pascagoula River swamp to a black plastic, gallon-sized nursery pot. We didn’t know its identity at the time.
A cousin with a green thumb and an active sense of humor adopted the unusual mystery shrub. She identified it as a "Sidaroada," as in found on the “side of the road.”
Since then Google has informed me that, although deer may snack on the leaves and stems, humans should take the seedpods’ vibrant color as a red flag of warning. Pods and seeds are a potent laxative and cause severe diarrhea.