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Euonymus europaeus - L.

Common Name Spindle Tree, European spindletree
Family Celastraceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards Poisonous. No further details.
Habitats Woods, scrub and hedges, usually on calcareous soils[9, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Sweden suth and east to Spain, the Caucasus and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Euonymus europaeus Spindle Tree, European spindletree

Euonymus europaeus Spindle Tree, European spindletree


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Euonymus europaeus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft 8in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Manna  Oil
Edible Uses: Colouring  Oil

An edible yellow dye is obtained from the fruit and seed[46, 61, 103, 183]. Pink from the fruit case, orange from the seed[141]. These reports should be treated with some caution since many members of this genus are poisonous. One report suggests that the plant is a source of a manna[183], there are no further details.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Alterative  Cholagogue  Hepatic  Laxative  Parasiticide  Purgative  Stimulant  Tonic

The bark is alterative, cholagogue, hepatic, laxative, stimulant and tonic[4, 7]. The root bark is the part normally used, though bark from the stems is sometimes employed as a substitute[4]. In small doses it stimulates the appetite, in larger doses it irritates the intestines[4]. The bark is especially useful in the treatment of liver disorders which follow or accompany fevers[4]. The seeds are strongly emetic and purgative[4]. The fresh leaves, and the dried fruit and seeds, are used externally to treat scabies, lice (head, body or pubic), ticks and other skin parasites[268].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Insecticide  Latex  Oil  Parasiticide  Wood

The whole plant yields a volatile oil that is used in soap making[13, 46]. Other reports say that the oil is obtained from the seed[46, 61, 103, 115]. It is possible that there are two oils, an essential oil from the plant and an oil from the seed[K]. A good yellow dye is obtained from the fleshy coating around the seeds[4]. This becomes green with the addition of alum, but unfortunately both colours are rather fugitive[4]. The baked and powdered berries are used to remove lice from the hair[6, 19, 66], they are also used as an insecticide[15]. The leaves are used[115]. Roots yield up to 4% gutta-percha, a non elastic rubber used as an electrical insulation and for making plastics[74]. Wood - very hard, easily split, fine-grained, not durable[4, 6, 13, 46]. Used for spindles, skewers, knitting needles, toothpicks, carving etc[6, 100, 103]. A high quality charcoal is obtained from the wood, it is used by artists[46, 74, 103, 115].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it thrives in almost any soil, including chalk, and is particularly suited to dry shaded areas[200]. Prefers a well-drained loamy soil[1]. If cultivated for its latex it is best grown in a dry open position[74]. A very cold-hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -25°c[184]. A very ornamental plant, there are many named varieties[11]. This species is often damaged by caterpillars during the flowering season[11]. It is a favoured home for blackfly, so should not be grown near broad beans[121]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is branching: a heart root, dividing from the crown into several primary roots going down and out [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 8 - 12 weeks warm followed by 8 - 16 weeks cold stratification and can then be sown in a cold frame[98]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. One report says that the seed can be sown in an outdoors seedbed in early spring with good results[78]. Grow the seedlings on for two years in the seedbed before planting them out into their permanent positions. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm long taken at a node or with a heel, July/August in a frame. Very easy[78]. Cuttings of mature wood, November in a frame[113]. Layering in July/August. Takes 14 months[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Mell Vandevelde   Tue Jan 17 2006

Can anyone advise if this would be a bad choice in a garden likely to have a young child playing in it? I wonder if the fruit is too poisenous should it be eaten?

Jan Rees   Sat May 10 2008

Two days ago, a branch from my spindle tree brushed against my face and brought me out in a severe allergic reaction. My eyelids became swollen and and my face red, hot and numb. The allergic reaction was caused by direct contact to the skin and then exposure to sunlight. So please, this is a lovely tree, but treat it with care and if you are planting up, use gloves.

dave henshaw   Sat Nov 22 2008

I recently found a couple of spindle trees growing wild in north Lincs., I got in there pulling off the berries with my bare hands, leafy banches on my arms & in my face - no re-action at all. Is Jan Rees a doctor/dermatologist ?, I doubt it. This kind of unqualified rubbish does'nt help anyone. Use gloves ?, load o'crap!

   Thu Jan 29 2009

dave henshaw seem to have been unnecessarily rude and apparently ignorant of the fact that some people have skin reaction to things that do not affect others. Dr V

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