This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
No trace of this small tree has been found in Glacial or other beds. It is distributed throughout Europe as far east as the Caucasus, and in North Africa, and West Siberia. In Great Britain it is absent from Radnor, N. Lincs, S. and Mid Lancs, Isle of Man, as far as Kirkcudbright, and elsewhere it is found only in Roxburgh, Berwick, Edinburgh. It is thus rare in Scotland, and in Ireland quite local.
The Spindle Tree is principally a woodland species, but it occurs here and there as a hedgerow plant along the roadside. It grows along with other shrubs in the plantation mixed with Field Maple, Holly, and Hawthorn, or scattered about in the midst of oak plantations. It is a bushy shrub or small tree with quadrangular or square stem, the bark green, grey in older stems, smooth, strongly smelling, with long, acute, opposite leaves slightly toothed, on short leafstalks.
The flowers are greenish-white, umbellate, or in an umbel, the four acute petals oblong, 4-cleft, and with 4 anthers, as many as ten flowers on one cyme, which is often dichotomous. The flower-stalks are long, the capsules are 4-lobed, deep, and, when the fruit is ripe, of a beautiful rose or orange-crimson colour, like a capsicum, and the seeds, which are not truncate, are enclosed in an orange arillus or covering of a fleshy nature.
The Spindle Tree is from 5 to 20 ft. high. The flowers are in bloom in May and June. The capsules are 4-5-celled, and are ripe about September, when they are red and especially attractive and conspicuous. The plant is a deciduous shrub increased by seed. The seeds are enclosed in an orange arillus. The embryo is surrounded by albumen.
Photo. H. Irving - Spindlewood (euonymus Europceus, L.)
The styles are surrounded by a fleshy disk containing honey in a thin layer, accessible to short-lipped insects. It is tricecious. There are staminate flowers with rudimentary pistils, and pistillate flowers with rudimentary stamens, and hermaphrodite flowers which are male as a rule in function, and rarely produce seeds.
The flowers have no attraction except to flies, which cross the flowers in every direction with outspread labellae, touching anthers and stigmas in different places. Four anthers stand out some distance from the stigma on rigid anther-stalks and open outwards, when the stigma is not ripe, and the lobes are not outspread. They separate on the second day, and after pollination has ensued. Only by a separation of the sexual organs is it possible for cross-pollination of the plant to take place, while self-pollination cannot happen.
The Spindle Tree is visited by Diptera (Syrphidae, Muscidae, Bibionidae), Hymenoptera (Formicidae). It is dispersed by the agency of animals. The fruit is edible, and the seeds are dispersed by animals. The two cotyledons are green.
Spindle Tree is partly a humus-loving plant requiring a humus soil, and partly a sand plant, and living on sand soil.
Cceoma euonymi forms yellow pustules on the leaves and young branches. Death's Head Hawk Moth, Copper Underwing (Amphi-pyra pyramidia), Scorched Carpet (Ligdia adustata), Theristis candella, and Acrobasis angustella, Hyponomeuta cognatella, H. plembellus, H. euonymellus, Abraxas adustata, and the Homoptera, Aphis euonymi, Siphonophora pisi, attack it.
Euonymus, Theophrastus, is from two Greek words, denoting together "having a good name", therefore lucky, prosperous.
The English names are: Ananbeam, Butcher's Prick-tree, Cat-rash or Cat Rush, Cat-tree, Cat-wood, Death Alder, Dogrise, Dogtooth Berry, Dogtree, Dogwood, Foul-rush, Gadrise, Gaiter-tree, Gaten-tree, Gatteridge, Louse Berry, Pincushions, Prickwood, Skewer-wood, Skiver, Skiver-timber, Spoke Wood, Witch Wood. Prick timber, etc, refers to its use as skewers, etc, and so does Skewer-wood. It was called Cat Rush, etc, "perhaps from having a green bark like a rush ". In Bucks it is unlucky to bring it into the house. The name Dogwood was supposed to be given because a preparation of the leaves was given to dogs to drive away vermin, and the name Louse Berry was given because the berries when sprinkled on the hair destroy lice.
The wood is very hard, hence its employment in making skewers.
A good drawing charcoal is also derived from it. It yields a good yellow dye, and, with alum added, a green dye. In Germany they bore the young shoots to make pipe-stems of them.
Essential Specific Characters: 73. Euonymus europceus, L. - Shrub, branches quadrangular, leaves lanceolate, opposite, serrate, flowers white or green, in umbels, peduncles axillary, capsule with an arillus, scarlet, obtusely angular, or lobed.