Family: Celastraceae
Common Name: Spindle Tree

This northern hemisphere genus comprises around 170 species of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and small trees, mostly from eastern Asia and the Himalayas. The evergreen species are grown as hedges, edgings and borders, and respond well to regular clipping. The deciduous species have handsome foliage which colours beautifully in autumn, and attractive four-lobed fnrits which split open in autumn to reveal brightly coloured seeds. The flowers are small and may be greenish white or sometimes reddish brown.


E. alatus, winged spindle tree or cork tree, zone 3, so-called for its distinctive corky, 'winged' branches, is an attractive, compact, deciduous shrub from China and Japan. Slow growing, it reaches only about 2.5 m (8 ft). In autumn, the finely toothed, dark green leaves, pointed at both ends, turn a very vivid, deep red, while the purplish berries split to reveal the orange-red seeds.

E. europaeus, common spindle tree, zone 3, from Europe and Great Britain, is quite an ordinary deciduous shrub or small tree until autumn when it colours a brilliant yellow and scarlet and the pinkish red seed capsules reveal large, orange seeds. Wood of this species was used to make spindles. Cultivars with differently coloured seed cap­sules and leaves are sometimes available.

E. japonicus, Japanese spindle tree, zone 7, is a hardy, spreading, evergreen shrub from China and Japan, with deep green, shiny foliage, useful as a hedge or coastal plant. The dull pink, four-angled fruits contain orange seeds. Many variegated cultivars, with cream or gold markings, are available and more cul­tivated than the species.

E. latifolius, zone 5, native to southern Europe and western Asia, is an attractive, deciduous shrub or small tree, to 5 m (16 ft), with glossy, deep green, finely toothed, pointed leaves colouring orange, red and purplish crimson in autumn. Large, rose-crim­son fruits remain on the tree after the leaves have fallen.


These hardy plants will adapt to most soils and climates, including coastal cli­mates, though the deciduous species provide better autumn colour in areas with a dry autumn and a cold winter. The soil must be well drained. Best results come from soils enriched with organic matter. Propagate from stratified seed sown in spring, or from semi-ripe cuttings taken in summer and autumn, or by layering.


There are species suited to various cli­matic zones.

Eugenia      Eupatorium