Spindle Tree – Fusain d’Europe
A native to much of Europe, belonging to the Celastraceae family. It grows in open woodland, clearings, hedgerows but always close to water. The tree can reach a height of 3-6 m. The leaves are opposite, lanceolate to elliptical with finely serrated edges. The flowers are quite insignificant, very small, yellowish-green in contrast to the really magnificent-looking fruit capsule. The colour of the fruit capsule varies from red, purple to pink. When the fruit capsule splits open it reveals orange seeds. The wood is very hard with a light yellow hue. It can be cut into a sharp point and was used to make spindles to spin wool, hence the name Spindle Tree; also to make knitting needles. In addition, very high quality charcoal, as used by artists, is made from this wood.
All parts of the tree are poisonous but, in particular, the berries. Internally, the bark and root bark is used by professional herbalists to treat liver and gall bladder complaints. Externally, it is an effective remedy to treat scabies, lice infestation (head, body or pubic), ticks and other skin parasites (30 g of fresh leaves, dried fruit or seeds to 1 litre of water).
Bibliography: Herbs and Herbalism – Malcolm Stuart; RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Uses – Deni Bown; Spindle Tree – Wikepedia