Viburnum opulus

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Viburnum opulus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Viburnum
V. opulus
Binomial name
Viburnum opulus
    • Opulus edulis J.Presl
    • Opulus glandulosa Moench
    • Opulus glandulosa var. globosa Schur
    • Opulus lobatofolia Gilib.
    • Opulus oxycoccos (Pursh) J.Presl
    • Opulus palustris Gray
    • Opulus trilobifolia Gilib. ex Ledeb.
    • Opulus vulgaris Borkh.
    • Viburnum glandulosum Salisb.
    • Viburnum lobatum Lam.
    • Viburnum nanum Dippel
    • Viburnum opuloides Muhl.
    • Viburnum opulus var. europaeum Aiton
    • Viburnum opulus var. europeanum Michx.
    • Viburnum opulus f. flavum (Horw.) P.D.Sell
    • Viburnum opulus var. flavum Horw.
    • Viburnum opulus f. glabrifolium Gajić
    • Viburnum opulus f. nanum (David) Zabel
    • Viburnum opulus var. nanum (David) H.Jaeger
    • Viburnum opulus nanum I.David
    • Viburnum opulus var. pimina Michx.
    • Viburnum opulus f. pygmaeum Schelle
    • Viburnum opulus var. roseum L.
    • Viburnum opulus f. roseum (L.) Hegi
    • Viburnum opulus var. sterile Mérat
    • Viburnum opulus var. sterilis DC.
    • Viburnum opulus var. subintegrifolium (Hook.) Torr. & A.Gray
    • Viburnum opulus subsp.. typicum R.T.Clausen
    • Viburnum opulus var. variegatum Weston
    • Viburnum opulus f. variegatum (Weston) Zabel
    • Viburnum opulus var. vasicii Gajić
    • Viburnum opulus xanthocarpum Späth
    • Viburnum opulus var. xanthocarpum (Späth) C.K.Schneid.
    • Viburnum opulus f. xanthocarpum (Späth) Rehder
    • Viburnum oxycoccos Pursh
    • Viburnum oxycoccos var. eradiatum Oakes
    • Viburnum oxycoccos var. subintegrifolium Hook.
    • Viburnum palustre Raf.
    • Viburnum pinnina Raf.
    • Viburnum primina Raf.
    • Viburnum rosaceum Steud.
    • Viburnum roseum Steud.
Fruits close up

Viburnum opulus, the guelder-rose[2] or guelder rose (/ˈɡɛldər/)[3] is a species of flowering plant in the family Adoxaceae (formerly Caprifoliaceae) native to Europe, northern Africa and central Asia.[4]


Flowers (left) and fruit

Viburnum opulus is a deciduous shrub growing to 4–5 m (13–16 ft) tall. The leaves are opposite, three-lobed, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and broad, with a rounded base and coarsely serrated margins; they are superficially similar to the leaves of some maples, most easily distinguished by their somewhat wrinkled surface with impressed leaf venation. The leaf buds are green, with valvate bud scales.

The hermaphrodite flowers are white, produced in corymbs 4–11 cm (2–4 in) in diameter at the top of the stems; each corymb comprises a ring of outer sterile flowers 1.5–2 cm in diameter with conspicuous petals, surrounding a center of small (5 mm), fertile flowers; the flowers are produced in early summer, and pollinated by insects. The fruit is a globose bright red drupe 7–10 mm diameter, containing a single seed. The seeds are dispersed by birds.


The common name 'guelder rose' relates to the Dutch province of Gelderland, where a popular cultivar, the snowball tree, supposedly originated.[5] Other common names include water elder, cramp bark, snowball tree, common snowball,[6] and European cranberrybush, though this plant is not closely related to the cranberry. Some botanists also include the North American species Viburnum trilobum as V. opulus var. americanum Ait., or as V. opulus subsp. trilobum (Marshall) Clausen.


Viburnum opulus is a member of the Viburnum genus which contains 160 to 170 species. It is classified in the subsection Opulus, which usually contains five species. Phylogenetic analyses suggest the following relationship between those species:

clade containing sections Sambucina, Lobata, Coriacea, and Succodontotinus

Opulus sect.

V. edule (squashberry, mooseberry)—Canada and northern parts of the US

V. koreanum (Korean viburnum)—China, Korea

V. sargentii (tianmu viburnum)—northeastern Asia

V. opulus

V. trilobum (high bush viburnum)—northern North America



Viburnum opulus is grown as an ornamental plant for its flowers and berries, growing best on moist, moderately alkaline soils, though tolerating most soil types well. Several cultivars have been selected, including 'Roseum', in which all the flowers are only of the larger sterile type, with globular flower heads.

The shrub is also cultivated as a component of hedgerows, cover plantings, and as part of other naturalistic plantings in its native regions.

It is naturalised in North America.

The cultivars 'Notcutt’s Variety',[7] 'Roseum'[8] and the yellow-fruited 'Xanthocarpum'[9] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[10]


The fruit is edible in small quantities, with a very bitter taste; it can be used to make jelly. It is however mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea if eaten in large amounts.[11]

The term 'cramp bark' is related to the bark's use in traditional medicine for cramps, but there is no scientific evidence of its effectiveness for this use or any other.[12]

Cultural meaning[edit]

Mentions of the viburnum can be found throughout Ukrainian folklore such as songs, decorative art, Ukrainian embroidery, and poetry.[13] Its symbolic roots can be traced to the Slavic paganism of millennia ago. According to a legend, kalyna was associated with the birth of the Universe, the so-called Fire Trinity: the Sun, the Moon, and the Star.[14][15] Its berries symbolize one's home and native land, blood, and family roots.[16][17] Kalyna is often depicted on Ukrainian embroidery: ritual cloths and shirts. In Slavic paganism kalyna also represents the beauty of a young lady, which rhymes well in the Ukrainian language: ka-ly-na – div-chy-na.[18][19][20] The song "Chervona Kalyna" was the anthem of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen[21][22] and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; along with these national liberating movements in 20th century guelder rose was established as a symbol of riflemen honor, and state independence.[23]

In Russia the Viburnum fruit is called kalina (калина) and is commonly found in folklore. Kalina derived in Russian language from kalit' or raskalyat', which means "to make red-hot". The red fiery color of the berries represents beauty in Russian culture and together with sweet raspberries it symbolises the passionate love of a beautiful maiden, since berries were always an erotic symbol in Russia.[24]: 149  The bitter side of the red fruit also symbolizes love separation in Russian folk culture.[25] The name of the Russian song Kalinka is a diminutive of Kalina. Viburnum opulus is also an important symbol of the Russian national ornamental wood painting handicraft style called Khokhloma.[citation needed]

In Romanian, which has been influenced by East Slavic culture, Viburnum opulus is called călin.[citation needed] Călin is also used as both a given name and a surname.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Viburnum opulus L." Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  3. ^ "guelder rose". Oxford English Dictionary second edition. Oxford University Press. 1989. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  4. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  5. ^ The Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain p.143.
  6. ^ Bock, Klaus; Jensen; Nielson; Norn (1978). "Iridoid allosides from Viburnum opulus". Phytochemistry. 17 (4): 753–757. Bibcode:1978PChem..17..753B. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)94220-1.
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum opulus 'Notcutt's Variety'". Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  8. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'". RHS. Archived from the original on 26 August 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  9. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum'". RHS. Archived from the original on 26 August 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  10. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 107. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 May 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Plant Database Search". Archived from the original on 26 July 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Cramp Bark: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning". Archived from the original on 26 May 2023. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  13. ^ Потебня, Олександр (1985). "Про деякі символи в слов'янській народній поезії". Естетика і поетика слова. К: Мистецтво. pp. 207–210.
  14. ^ Lady of Prykarpattia Archived 4 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine (in Ukrainian)
  15. ^ Ukrainian embroidery Archived 13 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine (in Ukrainian)
  16. ^ "Що означають візерунки стародавніх українських вишивок (фото)". ВСВІТІ (in Ukrainian). 23 March 2021. Archived from the original on 26 March 2022. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  17. ^ Ostrovska, Tetyana (1992). Знаки 155 стародавніх українських вишивок (альбом) (in Ukrainian). Київ: Бібліотечка журналу "Соняшник".
  18. ^ Doctor Bozhko, Agrarian Sciences. Trees in culture by folk. Archived 4 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine (in Ukrainian)
  19. ^ Doctor Kuzmenko, Philological Sciences. The symbolics of guilder rose in Ukrainian songs of the 20th century national liberating movements. Archived 4 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine (in English and Ukrainian)
  20. ^ darpoj (17 July 2007). "a kalyna ne verba-live(Natalka Karpa)". Archived from the original on 21 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  21. ^ "Стрілецькі піснї і труби". Збруч (in Ukrainian). 16 March 2016. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  22. ^ Anatoliy, Ivanytskiy (2008). Хрестоматія з українського музичного фольклору.: Навчальний посібник для ВНЗ I–IV р.а. (in Ukrainian). Нова Книга. p. 499. ISBN 978-966-382-139-9. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  23. ^ Kuzmenko, O. (2006). "The symbolics of guilder rose in Ukrainian songs of the 20th century national liberating movements" (PDF). Науковий вісник. 16 (4): 87. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  24. ^ Prokhorov, Vadim (2002). Russian folk songs : musical genres and history. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810841274. OCLC 47208585.
  25. ^ MacLaury, Robert E.; Paramei, Galina V.; Dedrick, Don (2007). Anthropology of color interdisciplinary multilevel modeling. J. Benjamins Pub. Co. pp. 418. ISBN 9789027232434. OCLC 928983471.
  26. ^ Adams, William Lee (18 March 2022). "Go_A release 'Kalyna' to raise funds for Ukraine...and to remind the world it must unite to fight evil". wiwibloggs. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023. Retrieved 5 August 2023. Kalyna (guelder-rose) is a symbol that has been a part of Ukrainian culture since ancient times. Its meanings were transferred through the ages in legends and songs. A broken kalyna tree was a sign of trouble and tragedy; abuse of this tree was a shameful act. Ukrainian people carefully protected it because there was a belief that kalyna grew only next to good people. According to our ancestors, kalyna has a power that brings immortality and can unite generations to fight evil.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.

External links[edit]