What is a Spindle Tree?




The Spindle Tree in the story is very old, growing in the old cemetery encircling the Wilson Mausoleum.  In fact, the Spindle Tree whose Latin name is Euonymous Europeum is native to Europe and is found also in England, Wales and Ireland.  It can grow very high as it gets older and is very inconspicuous in the hedgerow.  It has small tiny green flowers in May, but it comes into its own in the Autumn when its leaves turn a bright red and its beautiful coral pink berries open up to reveal a bright yellow hard seed within.  It is native to Ireland and it grows in mainly chalky or lime-laden soil.  Its seeds are poisonous and can cause kidney or liver failure if ingested.

It was known in folk medicine as the louse berry as the seeds were dried, crushed into a powder and used to prevent lice, fleas, and ticks on farm animals as well as dogs and cats. It’s long hard sticks were shaped and used as knitting needles, as skewers for meat by butchers and as seen from its more common name, it was used to make spindles for spindle trees.  In more recent times it has become popular in gardens, because of its rich Autumn displays of colour. When it was introduced to North America, it has become an invasive species in some areas.