November plant of the month

A shrub with something a little different – orange autumnal arils

Euonymus myrianthusEvery autumn eagle-eyed visitors are enchanted by a curious fruiting body that hangs from an open-limbed shrub. On the corner of Seven Acres and the Pinetum, the many-flowered spindle tree Euonymus myrianthus, is adorned with orange seed pods. And when they open, a bright pinkish red berry-like fruit is revealed.

Euonymus myrianthus at WisleyIn spring, the sprays of small flowers are yellowy green. It is these which give rise to its “many-flowered” common name that the myrianthus part of its Latin name (specific epithet) also refers to. But the joy of this evergreen shrub is when these flowers form their fruit.

The fruit is a capsule divided into sections, each of which contains a seed surrounded by a red or orange fleshy bag called an aril. The fruit splits, revealing a pale pinkish interior which contrasts with the brightly coloured aril. Briefly, the contrast of the pink and orange is a vivid autumn surprise, but long after the berry goes, the orange aril hangs on and gives late autumn and winter interest.

Spindles (Euonymus) come in many shapes and sizes, and this particular species is a handsome evergreen. The benefit of being evergreen in this case is that the green foliage makes the perfect foil for the orange seed pod cases. It will grow up to around 3m (10ft) tall and wide, and originates from western China. It isn’t often grown in this country, although there are a few suppliers but as a plant of the month in our garden, it’s definitely one to highlight.


 

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