The Autumnal colours of leaves may well be a distant memory in November, but there could still be a little joyous burst of colour left on Spindleberry Trees ( Euonymous europaeus). Nature often signals danger by helpfully giving poisonous plants or insects garish colours and the fruit of the Spindleberry Tree is no exception. The tiny bright pink fruits burst open to reveal bright orange seeds which look like popcorn that has been drenched in some noxious chemical dyes. There is a special joy in finding a fruiting wild Spindleberry Tree because to the human eye it is such an unassuming plant for the rest of the year and it is possible to walk past it for months without noticing until the fruits demand attention.
The straight creamy white dense hardwood was unsurprisingly used as spindles for hand spinning wool as well as knitting needles, butchers skewers, toothpicks and is particularly prized as charcoal pencils for artists. The fruit and leaves, despite being a food plant for many insects, are toxic to humans although a powdered concoction of leaves was used to treat mange in cattle and even head lice and insect infestations in homes.
Spindle photo: Victoria Ross