Winged Spindle tree
Botanical name: Euonymus alata
Family: Celastraceae (no translation)
Origin: China, Japan
Class: Shrub/small tree
Display period: Fall through winter
Height: 8 to 10 feet
Environment: Sun to part shade When choosing plants for your garden, you may have heard it said to include some that will provide winter interest. The Euonymus alata fits that niche perfectly.
Through the summer, it's a nice enough plant, the form rather patrician, the leaves a cool green. Springtime brings greenish-white flowers that don't amount to very much. They are followed by red berries that, although bright, are small and not too showy.
When it turns crimson in autumn, the winged Euonymus takes visual control of its surroundings. But it's from its unique and highly decorative segmented branches -- comparable in form only to the American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) -- that the species derives its main appeal. The bark is referred to as corky or winged, the characteristics giving rise to the plant's popular names.
It is in the wintertime, though, when the branches are bare of foliage and their structure is fully revealed that the plant makes its greatest contribution to the landscape.
The corky-barked Euonymous is also wonderful for arranging. Its branches are quite pliable and yield to careful bending. They can, therefore, be easily shaped into curves or changed in direction. In applying pressure, however, the secret lies in keeping your hands close together on the branch and pressing down on it gently so as not to break it in two.