This popular shrub can spread beyond cultivated areas and into native habitats in many eastern and midwestern states. As it is very tolerant of deep shade, it can thrive in the interiors of forests. Since it is a rapid grower, it can out-compete native plants, often forming dense thickets.
Native alternatives are many and varied. Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Sweet Pepperbush (Clethera alnifolia), Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillate) are possibilities. “There are many native alternatives for those looking to capture the vibrant fall colors burning bush offers—for example, native viburnum shrubs have both attractive spring flowers and glossy, maroon fall foliage, and shrubby dogwood species, including silky (Cornus amomum), gray (Cornus racemosa), and red stem (Cornus sericea), have similarly vibrant fall coloration. Both viburnum and dogwood shrubs provide valuable food and shelter for wildlife in addition to aesthetically beautiful foliage and flowers.”2