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The Guelder Rose

UK Garden Centre - information on the Guelder Rose tree

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Family Caprifoliaceae
Viburnum Opulus

The distribution of the Guelder Rose as a wild plant extends northwards to Caithness, although it is generally rare in Scotland. It occurs throughout Ireland.
The Guelder Rose is very closely related to the Wayfaring-tree, but the differences between them are so great that there is little danger of the observer confusing them. The Guelder Rose does not grow as tall as its congener, twelve feet being about the extreme height in its wild state, and often it is several feet less.
It is not so fond of dry soils, and is more frequently found in the copse, where it is not subject to the extremes of heat and cold that have produced the hairy covering of the Wayfaring-tree.
The stems and branches are quite smooth, and the leaf-buds are wrapped in scales. The young leaves, it is true, are covered with down when they break from the bud, but they throw this off as they expand to their full size.
The leaf is divided into three deeply toothed lobes. The flower-head is rounded and in the mass about the same size as those of the Wayfaring-tree. The outer row of flowers are about three times the size of the others – but they are entirely without stamens or pistil! The inner and perfect flowers are creamy-white, bell-shaped, and they secrete nectar. Both stamens and stigma mature simultaneously.
The fruits are almost round, and of a clear, translucent red. Respecting these fruits it is recorded that for any one who enjoys the sight of red berries in the most jewel-like splendour, there is nothing in winter like V. Opulus, and if the rambler meet with a fine specimen just as it is caught by the level rays of a crimson sunset, he will behold a shrub whose fruits appear as jewels. These juicy fruits, though so pleasing to the sight, are nauseous to the taste although in Scandinavia they are sometimes eaten with a mixture of honey and flour.
In the Cotswolds the Guelder Rose is known as King’s Crown, from the “King of the May” having been crowned with a chaplet of it. Another name for it is Water Elder, presumably given on account of the similar appearance of the flower-clusters in Guelder Rose and Elder.


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