Species of the week: Spindle

Sep 04

Spindle tree

Euonymus europaeus

Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany, Illustration Euonymus europaea0, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Spindle is found throughout Ireland in woodland, scrub and hedgerows on limestone. It is often planted in gardens and parks. A deciduous shrub or small tree which grows 3–6 m tall, rarely 10 m, with a stem up to 20 cm in diameter.

The leaves are opposite, lanceolate to elliptical, 3-8 cm long and 1-3 cm broad, with a finely serrated edge. Leaves are dark green in summer. Autumn colour ranges from yellow-green to reddish-purple, depending on environmental conditions.

The hermaphrodite flowers are produced in late spring and are insect-pollinated. They are rather inconspicuous, small, yellowish green, with 4 well separated petals and 4 sepals. They grow in small, branched clusters in leaf axils on square-sided twigs on much-branched, upright stems.

The capsular fruit ripens in autumn, and is coral pink in colour and approximately 1-1.5 cm wide. It is four-lobed, with fleshy, orange, succulent covering over the seeds. When ripe, September to November, the four lobes split open to reveal the bright orange seeds. The fruit is poisonous.

Spindle wood is very hard, and can be cut to a sharp point; it was used in the past for making wool spindles.


Featured image by Hedwig Storch (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gewöhnlicher_Spindelstrauch_(Euonymus_europaeus)_IMG_7940.JPG), “Gewöhnlicher Spindelstrauch (Euonymus europaeus) IMG 7940”, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode