It’s easy to overlook the flowers of Spindle. The fruit stand out for the garish combination of bright pink with orange seeds forcing their way out. They grab your attention at this time of year in otherwise colourless, deciduous hedgerows.
Evocative French Name
The berries have earned Spindle a host of common names. The French name Bonnet-de-prêtre points out a comparison with four-cornered (sometimes three-cornered) headwear worn by Catholic clergy. The colours vary according to rank. Priests, deacons and seminarians wear black. A bishop’s biretta is amaranth, or a reddish-rose colour. A cardinal’s biretta is scarlet. Therefore, the closest match to Spindle fruit seems to be the bishop’s biretta rather than the more commonly cited cardinal’s biretta.
Enticing, yet Poisonous
The way the four lobes split open gives rise to the Surrey regional name of Hot Cross Buns – an Easter rather than Advent allusion. The Somerset common name is Popcorns. It evokes the way the fleshy orange arils covering the seeds pop out. Do not pop them in your mouth however enticing they look. They are poisonous.
References and Further Reading
- Grigson, Geoffrey (1996): The Englishman’s Flora. Helicon.
- Milner, Edward (2011): Trees of Britain and Ireland. Natural History Museum.
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