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Flowers of spindle tree.

Spindle-tree is an European species of euonymus with attractive fall color and interesting seed capsules. Birds are attracted to the fruit and tend to spread them freely to the point this plant has become weedy and invasive in some areas.   

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Euonymus europaeus

All Common Names:

Spindle-tree, spindle tree, European spindle tree, European euonymus, common spindle tree

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Ornamental Interest:

  • Showy fruit

Season of Interest:

  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Narrow,
  • Round,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast


  • Birds

More Information:

Size and Form

An upright narrow shrub or tree reaching 12 to 25 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide becoming more rounded with age.

Tree & Plant Care

Requires well drained soil.
Birds easily spread the seeds; this plant is becoming invasive in some areas.

Disease, pests and problems

Euonymus scale

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe and Asia.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray; stems are green.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite leaves; oval with finely toothed edges; 1 to 3 inches long; dark green.
Fall color is variable, from yellow to reddish-purple.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous; yellow green flowers with four petals.

Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)
Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)
photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

This plant yields attractive, showy pink to reddish capsules that open to reveal orange seeds.

Cultivars and their differences 

Redcap spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus 'Redcap'):  This cultivar yields a large crop of persistent, bright capsules with orange seeds; the plants medium green leaves turn reddish-purple in the fall.


Location of Euonymus europaeus (Spindle-tree) at the Arboretum