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University of Washington Botanic Gardens


Washington Park Arboretum
Center for Urban Horticulture

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Washington Park Arboretum: With 230 acres of landscaped gardens, natural areas, and wetlands, plus a world-class collection of 10,000 trees, shrubs, and other plants—there is plenty of material for wide-eyed, hands-on learning!

Self-guided adventures: Explorer Packs for groups of up to 15 students K-6th and Family Adventure Packs are available for groups looking for a self-guided and hands-on educational experience.

School Fieldtrips: Experience hands-on, inquiry-based explorations of Washington Park Arboretums. Bring your class, grade or school as you join our Garden Guides for a 90 minute field trip aligned with Washington State K-12 Learning Standards.

Elisabeth C. Miller Library: Located at the Center for Urban Horticulture, the library has a Children’s Collection of 400 nonfiction and fiction books on gardening, botany, and natural science projects.

Upcoming Family Events

Free Weekend Walks Every Sunday at 1pm

December 2015 Plant Profile: Euonymus europaeus ‘atrorubens’


Found in its native Europe, Euonymus europaeus ‘atrorubens’, or spindle tree, is commonly seen as an understory shrub or small tree growing along deciduous woodland edges. Quite shade tolerant, it loves calcareous, well-drained base-rich soils and can grow up to 20’ tall. It is considered cold and drought tolerant. While labeled as invasive in some areas of the Northeast, it seems to behave itself here in the Pacific Northwest; the specimens in our collection have been here since the late 1940s and maintain their size at about 10’ x 6’. The easiest specimens to locate in the Washington Park Arboretum are in the Pinetum, tucked in between the cedars and the Coulter pines. You can’t miss them this time of year.

Traditionally, this plant’s stems were used to make spindles to twine wool and flax into yarn. It contains many medicinal properties in its roots and bark which were used by both Europeans and the Iroquois in Northeast America and Canada, where it spread widely after introduction to the new continent. While the fruits are eaten by a variety of animals in the plant’s native habitats, they are poisonous to humans.

The spindle tree is currently used as an ornamental garden feature, and the cultivar ‘Red Cascade’ has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. While its late spring flowers (small yellow cymes) are considered inconspicuous, its amazing orange fruits and pink sepals are brilliant in the fall and will persist into deep winter on the shrub. The ‘Atrorubens’ cultivar is prized for its bright red fall foliage, similar to its cousin the “burning bush” euonymus.

Common Name: Spindle Tree

Family: Celastraceae

Family Common Name: Bittersweet Family

Washington Park Arboretum

  • Pinetum (555-42*B & D in 38-5W)
  • Pacific Connections Garden (555-42*A in 6-1E)

Origin: Northern Europe and UK

Height and Spread: to 20’ tall x 10’ wide

Bloom Time: late spring

Posted on 26 November 2015 | 10:00 am

Last modified:
March 25 2015 11:24:33