Spindle
(Euonymus europaeus)
Simple
Linear
Opposite
Untoothed

leaves

opposite leaves
(top surface - note opposite arrangement)

Winter twig
Winter twig

simple leaves

fruits

ripe fruits

distribution map

The leaves are opposite, longly-elliptical, 3-10cm long, and hairless. They end in an acute point and have small teeth on their margins: the stalk is short, 6-12mm.

ID check

Spindle is a much-branched deciduous shrub usually up to 6m but occasionally as high as 8m, with branches 4-angled when young: older branches are grey to reddish-brown and often corky. Spindle grows on woodland margins, in shrub and hedgerows mostly on lime-rich soils.

The greenish flowers, about 1cm across, have 4 petals alternating with 4 shorter, joined sepals. The flowers are arranged in clusters of 3-10, each on a short stalk: they appear in May and June.

The 4-lobed fruits turn deep-pink in autumn and later open to expose four bright orange seeds.

The leaves turn dark-red in autumn and spindles are often planted in parks for their colour.

Facts

  • The white or pale-yellow wood was formerly used for making spindles, knitting needles and skewers.

  • The flowers are rich in nectar which attracts small pollinating insects.

  • Spindle is the only wild tree or shrub in Northern Europe which has a rubber-like substance, gutta percha, in its bark.

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