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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  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Euonymus europaeus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Sep to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (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.

Euonymus europaeus Spindle Tree, European spindletree

Euonymus europaeus Spindle Tree, European spindletree
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.
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].
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].
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].
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].
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Euonymus alatusWinged Spindle Tree, Burningbush, Corky spindletree12
Euonymus alatus apterusWinged Spindle Tree12
Euonymus americanusStrawberry Bush, Bursting-heart02
Euonymus atropurpureusWahoo- Indian Arrow Wood - Burning Bush, Eastern wahoo12
Euonymus crenulatus 01
Euonymus fimbriatus 00
Euonymus fortuneiWinter Creeper, Wintercreeper Euonymus01
Euonymus hamiltonianusHamilton's spindletree10
Euonymus hamiltonianus maackii 10
Euonymus hamiltonianus sieboldianus 10
Euonymus japonicusJapanese Spindle Tree, Box-leaf Euonymus, Evergreen Euonymus, Japanese Euonymus11
Euonymus latifolius 00
Euonymus lucidus 01
Euonymus macropterus 10
Euonymus miyakei 10
Euonymus oxyphyllus 11
Euonymus sachalinensisEuonymus10
Euonymus tanakae 10
Euonymus thunbergianus 10
Euonymus tingens 01
Euonymus verrucosus 00
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[6]Mabey. R. Plants with a Purpose.
Details on some of the useful wild plants of Britain. Poor on pictures but otherwise very good.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[13]Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants.
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.
[15]Bryan. J. and Castle. C. Edible Ornamental Garden.
A small book with interesting ideas for edible plants in the ornamental garden.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[19]Stary. F. Poisonous Plants.
Not very comprehensive, but easy reading.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[66]Freethy. R. From Agar to Zenery.
Very readable, giving details on plant uses based on the authors own experiences.
[74]Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR.
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[98]Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.
Very comprehensive guide to growing trees and shrubs from seed. Not for the casual reader.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[103]Haywood. V. H. Flowering Plants of the World.
Very readable and well illustrated, it lists plants by families giving the basic diagnostic features and some details of plant uses.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[115]Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
[121]? The Plantsman. Vol. 3. 1981 - 1982.
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants..
[141]Carruthers. S. P. (Editor) Alternative Enterprises for Agriculture in the UK.
Some suggested alternative commercial crops for Britain. Readable. Produced by a University study group.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[184]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs.
Excellent photographs and a terse description of 1900 species and cultivars.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[268]Stuart. M. (Editor) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism
Excellent herbal with good concise information on over 400 herbs.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
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?
Elizabeth H.
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.
Elizabeth H.
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!
Elizabeth H.
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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