The Spindle is indigenous throughout the British
Islands, but cannot be said to be generally common;
it is rarer in Scotland and Ireland than in England.
The Spindle is right on the borderland between
trees and shrubs, for though it will grow into
a tree twenty feet high, yet our hedgerow specimens
are usually bush like and only ten or twelve feet
Until the autumn the Spindle might be confused
with the Buckthorn and Dogwood, but its four-angled
twigs should enable it to be easily recognized.
In October its quaint fruits change to a pale
crimson hue, which renders them a conspicuous
feature of a hedgerow.
The trunk of the Spindle is clothed in smooth
grey bark. The twigs, which are in pairs, starting
from opposite sides of a branch, are four-angled.
The shining leaves vary from egg-shaped to lance-shaped,
with finely-toothed edges. They are arranged in
pairs, and in autumn they change to yellow and
The small greenish-white flowers are borne in
loose clusters, of the type known as cymes, from
the axils of the leaves, and appear in May and
June. Some contain both stamens and pistil, but
others are either stamenate or pistillate. The
calyx is cut into four or six parts, the petals
and stamens agree with these parts in number,
but the lobes of the stigma only range from three
to five, corresponding with the cells of the ovary.
The fruit is deeply lobed, and marked with grooved,
indicating the lines of future division, when
the lobes open and disclose the seeds, covered
at first with their orange jackets, after the
manner of the mace that encloses the nutmeg.
The hardness and toughness of Spindle-wood have
long been esteemed in the fashioning of small
articles where these qualities are essential,
and its common name is a survival of the days
when spinning was the occupation of most women.
Then spindles were in demand for winding the spun
thread upon, and no wood was more suitable for
the purpose. Known also as Skewerwood, Prickwood,
and Pegwood, all suggestive of uses to which it
is or was applied. The young shoots make a very
fine charcoal for artists’ use.
Among the exotic species cultivated in our parks
and gardens are the handsome variegated forms
of the Evergreen Spindle (Euonymus japonicus)
from China and Japan, and the Broad-leaved Spindle
(E. latifolius) from Europe.