The distribution of the Guelder Rose as a wild
plant extends northwards to Caithness, although
it is generally rare in Scotland. It occurs throughout
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
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.