Spindle is a shrub or small tree often found on chalky soils and heavy boulder clay soils in hedgerows and ancient woodlands. When young it forms a multi-stemmed or single leader plant with bright green square twigs that become rounded as the plant gets older. The buds are arranged opposite on the twigs.
The leaves vary from oval to lance-shaped with a finely toothed margin to a pointed tip. In autumn they fade from green to yellow, russet and to crimson. The greenish white flowers are inconspicuous and produced in June. The seeds are bright orange in a vivid pink seed pod. The name is derived from its past use in the production of spindles for spinning wool by hand.