Euonymus europaeus, also known as European spindle or common spindle, is a species of flowering shrub or small tree in the Celastraceae family. It is native to Europe and western Asia and commonly found in woodlands, hedgerows and scrubland. It grows to a height of 4-6m and has green leaves which turn orange-red in fall. It also produces small pink or red berries in the autumn. It is often used in landscaping and horticulture as an ornamental shrub. The wood of Euonymus europaeus is hard, close-grained and yellowish-white in color. It is used for tool handles, skewers and other small items.
The European Spindle, Euonymus europaea, is a deciduous shrub native to Europe and parts of Asia. It is a member of the Celastraceae family and is also commonly known as the spindle tree.
Appearance and Characteristics
The European Spindle is a multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows to a height of 3-6 meters. It has a compact, bushy growth habit and produces glossy green leaves that are elliptical in shape and have finely serrated edges. In the fall, the leaves turn shades of yellow and red before falling off.
One of the most distinctive features of the European Spindle is its fruit. The plant produces small, pinkish-red berries that grow in clusters and are surrounded by four- or five-pointed star-shaped husks. These husks split open in the fall to reveal the bright orange seeds inside, which are covered in a fleshy, sticky coating.
The European Spindle has a long history of use in Europe, both for its ornamental value and for its practical applications. In medieval times, the wood of the spindle tree was commonly used to make spindles for spinning wool, hence the common name "spindle tree." The wood was also used to make various household items such as pegs, skewers, and knitting needles.
In addition to its practical uses, the European Spindle has also been used in traditional medicine. The bark, leaves, and roots of the plant contain compounds that have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, diarrhea, and inflammation.
Growing and Care
The European Spindle is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and care for. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade. It can tolerate a range of soil types and pH levels, but it does not do well in waterlogged soil.
Pruning can help to maintain the shape of the plant and promote new growth. The best time to prune the European Spindle is in late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins.
While the European Spindle is generally a low-maintenance plant, it is important to note that all parts of the plant, including the berries, are toxic if ingested. It is recommended that the plant be kept out of reach of children and pets.
The European Spindle is a beautiful and versatile plant that has played an important role in European culture and history. Whether grown for its ornamental value or its practical uses, it is a great addition to any garden. With proper care, the European Spindle can thrive for many years and provide beauty and interest throughout the seasons.
The European Spindle is an important plant for wildlife. The berries are a food source for a variety of birds, including thrushes, blackbirds, and waxwings. The seeds inside the berries are dispersed by these birds, helping to spread the plant throughout the landscape.
In addition to its value as a food source, the European Spindle also provides habitat for a range of insects, including butterflies, moths, and bees. The leaves are a food source for the caterpillars of several moth species, including the spindle ermine moth and the common emerald moth.
While the European Spindle is not considered a threatened species, it is protected by law in some areas due to its value as a wildlife habitat. In the United Kingdom, for example, the plant is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, which makes it illegal to uproot or destroy the plant in the wild.
The European Spindle has the potential to become invasive in some areas. In North America, for example, the plant has been listed as an invasive species in several states. The plant can spread rapidly, and its seeds can be dispersed by birds over long distances.
In areas where the European Spindle is not native, it is important to plant it responsibly and to monitor its growth to prevent it from becoming invasive.
The European Spindle is a fascinating plant with a rich history and a range of uses. Whether you are interested in its cultural significance, its ecological value, or its practical applications, the plant is a great addition to any garden. With its attractive foliage, distinctive fruit, and hardy nature, the European Spindle is sure to provide interest and beauty for years to come.
The European Spindle can be propagated by seed or by cuttings. If propagating by seed, the berries should be harvested in the fall, and the seeds should be extracted and planted immediately. The seeds can be sown in pots or directly in the ground, but they should be covered with a thin layer of soil and kept moist.
To propagate by cuttings, select a stem from the previous year's growth and make a cut just below a node. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem, and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a pot filled with a mixture of sand and compost, and keep it moist. After a few weeks, roots should begin to form, and the plant can be transplanted to its permanent location.
In addition to its cultural and ecological value, the European Spindle has a range of practical uses. The wood of the plant is hard and fine-grained, and it is sometimes used in woodworking and carving. The plant has also been used in traditional medicine, particularly in Europe and Asia, where it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, diarrhea, and inflammation.
The European Spindle is a beautiful and versatile plant with a rich history and a range of uses. Whether grown for its ornamental value, its practical applications, or its ecological significance, the plant is a great addition to any garden. With its glossy foliage, distinctive fruit, and hardy nature, the European Spindle is sure to provide interest and beauty for years to come.
The European Spindle has a long history of use in human culture. In ancient Greece, the plant was associated with the god Apollo and was believed to have medicinal properties. In medieval Europe, the wood of the plant was used to make spindles for spinning wool, and the plant was also believed to have magical powers.
In some parts of Europe, the plant is still associated with folklore and superstition. For example, it is said that carrying a spindle made from the wood of the European Spindle will protect you from evil spirits. In some regions, the plant is also used to make a traditional Christmas decoration, where the bright pink fruit is used to add color to wreaths and garlands.
In modern times, the European Spindle has also been used as an ornamental plant in gardens and parks. Its attractive foliage and distinctive fruit make it a popular choice for landscaping, and it is also valued for its ability to provide habitat for wildlife.
The European Spindle is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and care for. It prefers well-drained soil and full or partial sun, but it can also tolerate some shade. The plant is drought-tolerant, but it should be watered regularly during the first year after planting to help it become established.
The plant can grow up to 20 feet tall, but it can also be pruned to maintain a smaller size. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before the new growth appears. The plant can also be shaped into a hedge or trained to grow on a trellis.
Overall, the European Spindle is a fascinating and valuable plant that is well-suited to a range of environments and uses. Whether grown for its cultural significance, its ecological value, or its practical applications, the plant is sure to provide beauty and interest for years to come.
20 European Spindle Facts
Scientific Name: The European Spindle is scientifically known as Euonymus europaeus.
Native Habitat: It is native to Europe and can be found in various habitats, including woodlands, hedges, and scrublands.
Distinctive Fruits: One of its most distinctive features is its fruit capsules, which resemble bright pink or orange berries, splitting open to reveal seeds.
Leaf Characteristics: The leaves of the European Spindle are opposite, elliptical, and have a vibrant green color, turning various shades of red and purple in the fall.
Flowering Season: It produces small, inconspicuous greenish flowers in late spring to early summer.
Ornamental Value: Due to its attractive fruits and foliage, the European Spindle is often cultivated for ornamental purposes in gardens and landscapes.
Size and Form: It typically grows as a deciduous shrub or small tree, reaching heights of up to 15 feet (4.5 meters).
Toxicity: All parts of the European Spindle are toxic if ingested, containing compounds that can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Cultural Significance: In some European folklore, the European Spindle is associated with symbolism and traditional medicinal uses.
Ecological Importance: The plant provides habitat and food for various wildlife, including birds that feed on its colorful fruits.
Adaptability: European Spindle is adaptable to different soil types and can tolerate both sun and partial shade.
Natural Enemies: Despite its toxicity, the European Spindle can be affected by various pests and diseases, including aphids and scale insects.
Wood Uses: Historically, the hard and fine-grained wood of the European Spindle has been used for crafting items such as spindles, knitting needles, and skewers.
Dyestuff: The roots of the European Spindle have been used historically as a source of red dye.
Conservation Status: In some regions, the European Spindle is considered invasive due to its ability to spread and outcompete native vegetation.
Growing Conditions: It prefers well-drained soil and can thrive in both acidic and alkaline conditions.
Pollination: European Spindle relies on insects, particularly bees, for pollination of its flowers.
Cultivars: There are cultivars of the European Spindle that exhibit variations in foliage color, adding to its horticultural appeal.
Landscaping Uses: Beyond gardens, it is often used in landscaping projects for hedging and as an ornamental focal point.
Winter Interest: Even in winter, the European Spindle retains interest with its unique fruit capsules, providing visual appeal in colder months.
European Spindle in flower filmed at Silverdale on the 27th May 2023.
Crisis - Scoring Action by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
European Spindle in fruit filmed at Arnside, Cumbria on the 22nd October 2022.
European Spindle filmed at Haigh Hall in Lancashire on the 16th September 2023.
Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@wildflower-web