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The Spindle-Tree

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Spindle-Tree

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Family Celastraceae
Euonymus europaeus

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 high.
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 red.
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.


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