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Book cover - Common Weeds of New ZealandAn Illustrated Guide to
Common Weeds
of New Zealand


Euonymus europaeus
spindle tree


Euonymus europaeus - spindle treeReproduced from
Common Weeds of New Zealand
by Ian Popay, Paul Champion & Trevor James
ISBN 0 473 09760 5
by kind permission of the
New Zealand Plant Protection Society

Publication or other use of images or descriptive text on these pages is unauthorised unless written permission is obtained from the authors and publisher.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the publication Common Weeds of New Zealand must always be given.

Available from Touchwood Books

Euonymus europaeus - spindle treeMuch-branched deciduous shrub or small tree up to 6 m tall, with distinctive orange-coloured aril surrounding the seeds.

  • Flowers Greenish-yellow, 8-10 mm in diameter, with four narrow, widely separated petals. Flowers in long-stalked, two- to fifteen-flowered, flat- or convex-topped inflorescences with forked branches. Flowers Nov-Dec.
  • Fruit Deep pink, four-lobed capsules, that spring open to expose the bright orange aril covering the seeds.
  • Leaves In opposite pairs, oval to elliptical, up to 10 cm long, stalks up to 12 mm long, finely-toothed, pointed. Turning red in autumn.
  • Stems Young twigs four-angled, green. Mature bark grey and smooth.


Scrubland, forest margins, hedges and waste places.


Occasional in NI at Palmerston North and Levin. Common in lowland Marlborough, Canterbury and Dunedin in SI. Originally from Europe to Caucasia.


Said to be poisonous, but that poisoning is rare.

Related species

Japanese spindle tree (Euoymus japonicus) is an evergreen shrub or small tree up to 7 m tall, distinguished from spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) by its rounded, unlobed capsules. Found in scrubland and waste places. Common in Auckland City, has also been found in Levin and Pukerua Bay, Wellington. Only found in NI. Subject to Pest Plant Management Strategies in several regions of NZ. Details are available from individual regional councils or unitary authorities.

Derivation of botanical name

Euonymus (Lat.) name of plant; europaeus (Lat.) = of Europe.


Last updated: July 13, 2014