Viburnum opulus

Viburnum opulus, the guelder-rose[1] or guelder rose (/ˈɡɛldər/)[2] is a species of flowering plant in the family Adoxaceae (formerly Caprifoliaceae) native to Europe, northern Africa and central Asia.[3]

Viburnum opulus
Viburnum 01.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Viburnum
V. opulus
Binomial name
Viburnum opulus
Viburnum opulus fruits - Keila.jpg
Viburnum opulus fruits close-up - Keila.jpg


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.[4] Other common names include water elder, cramp bark, snowball tree, common snowball,[5] 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 5 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) — north eastern 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',[6] 'Roseum'[7] and the yellow-fruited 'Xanthocarpum'[8] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[9]


The fruit is edible in small quantities, with a very acidic taste; it can be used to make jelly. It is however mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea if eaten in large amounts.[10]

The term 'cramp bark' is related to the bark's ability to reduce smooth muscle tightness. Relieving this type of muscle tightness is most often associated with relieving menstrual (period) cramps. However, the bark can also be used during pregnancy for cramps or pain and general muscle cramping.[11]

Cultural meaningEdit

Viburnum opulus or kalyna has been a symbol of Ukrainian culture since ancient times.[12].

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]

Viburnum opulus (kalina) is also one of the national symbols of Russia.[24][25] In Russia the Viburnum fruit is called kalina (калина) and is considered a national symbol. 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.[25]: 149  The bitter side of the red fruit also symbolizes love separation in Russian folk culture.[26] 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. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^ "guelder rose". Oxford English Dictionary second edition. Oxford University Press. 1989. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  3. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  4. ^ The Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain p.143.
  5. ^ Bock, Klaus; Jensen; Nielson; Norn (1978). "Iridoid allosides from Viburnum opulus". Phytochemistry. 17 (4): 753–757. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)94220-1.
  6. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum opulus 'Notcutt's Variety'". Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  8. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  9. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 107. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Plant Database Search".
  11. ^ "Cramp Bark: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning".
  12. ^ "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." Source : Go_A release “Kalyna” to raise funds for Ukraine…and to remind the world it must unite to fight evil, William Lee Adams, 18 march 2022.
  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 (in Ukrainian)
  15. ^ Ukrainian embroidery Archived January 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (in Ukrainian)
  16. ^ "Що означають візерунки стародавніх українських вишивок (фото)". ВСВІТІ (in Ukrainian). 23 March 2021. 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. (in Ukrainian)
  19. ^ Doctor Kuzmenko, Philological Sciences. The symbolics of guilder rose in Ukrainian songs of the 20th century national liberating movements. (in English and Ukrainian)
  20. ^ darpoj (17 July 2007). "a kalyna ne verba-live(Natalka Karpa)". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via YouTube.
  21. ^ "Стрілецькі піснї і труби". Збруч (in Ukrainian). 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  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 2012-03-04. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  24. ^ Peacebuilding with Women in Ukraine: Using Narrative to Envision a Common Future by Maureen Flaherty, Lexington Books, 2012, ISBN 0739174045 (page 172)
  25. ^ a b Prokhorov, Vadim (2002). Russian folk songs : musical genres and history. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810841274. OCLC 47208585.
  26. ^ 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.

External linksEdit

  1. Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton.
  2. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.
  3. Flora Europaea: Viburnum opulus
  4. Plants for a Future: Viburnum opulus