Spindle Tree (celastracoe)

During the autumn, in our woody hedgerows a shrub becomes very

conspicuous by bearing numerous rose-coloured floral capsules,

strikingly brilliant, each with a [531] scarlet and orange-coloured

centre. This is the Spindle Tree (Euonymus), so called because it

furnishes wood for spindles, or skewers, whence it is also named

Prickwood, Skewerwood, and Gadrise, or Gad Rouge. The word

gad is used in our western counties fo
a stick pointed at both ends

to fasten down thatch. The Spindle Tree has a green bark, and

glossy leaves, producing only small greenish flowers: whilst the

pendulous ornaments so brilliantly borne in autumn are four-lobed

capsules of a pale red hue, which open out and disclose ruddy

orange-coloured seeds wrapped in a scarlet arillus. It is further

known as the Louseberry Tree, from the fruit being applied to

destroy lice in children's heads, whilst its powdered bark will kill

nits, and serve to remove scurf. Other popular titles owned by this

shrub are gatter, gatten, and gatteridge. The ripe fruit, from

which a medicinal tincture is prepared, furnishes euonymin, a

golden resin, which is purgative and emetic. This acts specially on

the liver, and promotes a free flow of bile. The plant also yields

asparagin, and euonic acid. An ointment is made with the fruits: and

the powdered resin is given in doses of from half-a-grain to two


In the United States of America, this tree is the Wahoo, or Burning

Bush. The green leaves of one species are eaten by the Arabs to

induce watchfulness. In allusion to the actively irritating properties

of the shrub, its name, Euonymus, is associated with that of

Euonyme, the Mother of the Furies. The bark is mildly aperient and

causes no nausea, whilst at the same time stimulating the liver

somewhat freely. To make its decoction add an ounce to a pint of

water, and boil together slowly. A small wineglassful may be given,

when cool, for a dose two or three times in the day. Of the

medicinal tincture made from the bark with spirit [532] of wine, a

dose of from five to ten drops may be taken with water in the same

way. French doctors call the shrub Fusain, or bonnet de pretre

(birretta). They give the fruit, three or four for a dose, as a

purgative in rural districts: and employ the decoction, whilst

adding some vinegar, as a lotion against mange in horses and cattle.

Also, they make from the wood when slightly charred a delicate

crayon for artists.