A deciduous shrub or small tree from 10 to 25 ft high, forming a spreading, bushy head, often naked towards the ground, not downy in any part. Leaves narrowly oval, sometimes inclined to ovate or obovate, 1 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 11⁄4 in. wide, slender-pointed, tapered at the base, minutely toothed; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Cymes slender-stalked, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, usually three- or five-flowered (sometimes more); flowers yellowish green, 1⁄2 in. across; petals and stamens four. Fruit red, four-lobed, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. across; aril orange-coloured.
Native of Europe, including the British Isles. There is no more beautiful or striking object in autumn than a fine spindle-tree well laden with fruit. It has a number of varieties, some distinguished by the fruit, others by the foliage. One may frequently see it in gardens as a small tree with a well-formed single trunk, and Loudon records trees 25 to 35 ft high in Scotland. The wood is hard, and was in earlier times much favoured for making spindles, hence the popular name.
f. albus (West.) Rehd. – Fruits white. Although this does not produce the rich effect of the type, it is very striking in contrast with it.
cv. ‘Aldenhamensis’. – Fine form of the spindle-tree which appeared in the Hon. Vicary Gibbs’ garden at Aldenham, Herts. It is distinguished by the brilliant pink and larger size of the fruits, which are also, on account of the longer stalks, more pendulous than in the type. It received an Award of Merit on 17th October 1922.
var. angustifolius Reichb. – Leaves narrow-lanceolate.
cv. ‘Atropurpureus’. – Young shoots and leaves suffused with purple; autumn colour crimson.
cv. ‘Aucubifolius’. – Leaves blotched with yellow; rather unsightly.
var. intermedius Gaud. E. europaeus var. macrophyllus Reichb. – Described by Gaudin in Flora Helvetica, in the year 1828, this, perhaps the finest of all the forms of E. europaeus, has not spread in cultivation anything like so much as its merits entitle it to have done. It was brought into notice in the autumn of 1919, when Sydney Morris of Earlham Hall, Norwich, exhibited it in full fruit at a show in Norwich, and again in 1920, when, on 5 th October, he obtained from the Royal Horticultural Society an Award of Merit for it as a beautiful fruit-bearing shrub. It is distinguished chiefly by the large ovate leaves, sometimes rounded at the base, which in a figure in Reichenbach’s Icones Florae Germanicae, t. 309, are shown as much as 33⁄4 in. long and 13⁄4 in. wide; they are even longer and broader on specimens in Kew Herbarium collected in Italy. Mr Morris’s plant was also remarkable for the enormous crops of fruits it habitually produced and for their bright red colour and large size. In Switzerland this variety is found in Valais and Tessino, intermingled with the type, with which it is said to intergrade.
cv. ‘Red Cascade’. – A free-fruiting form raised by Messrs Jackman and given an Award of Merit in 1949.