Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopida
Order Dipsacales
Family Adoxaceae
Genus Viburnum
Species V. opulus
Binomial name Viburnum opulus

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the shrub guelder rose are European Cranberry, Cramp Bark, Snowball Tree, Red Elder, Rose Elder, Cranberry Bush, Cranberry Tree, Pembina, Pimbina and Whitten Tree.


The name Guelder comes from Gueldersland, a Dutch province, where the tree was first cultivated. It was introduced into England under the name of 'Gueldres Rose.

Having been used once to treat painful menstrual cramps this is how Viburnum opulus received the common name "Cramp Bark".Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) is probably Britain's most beautiful native shrub. Not a rose at all, the Guelder Rose is a medium to large deciduous shrub or small tree with white flowers, red fruit, and glorious red autumn colour. The latter name Snowball bush came about due to the white clusters of flowers that appear on the plants each spring.


Guelder-rose is a spreading, much-branched deciduous shrub, up to 4 m high, with greyish, hairless stems. The beautiful guelder rose is a spreading, bushy, asymmetrical shaped shrub. The 5-petalled, fragrant flowers are arranged in dense clusters with large sterile white flowers on the outside and small, creamy-yellow fertile ones called lace cap on the inside. They open in June and July. The maple-like, green leaves turn to stunning shades of red, orange and yellow in autumn. The large clusters of round, brilliant red and glossy - almost translucent - fruits remain on the plant throughout the winter and look particularly attractive against a background of snow.

Berries and flowers are held comfortably on the irregular and multi-branched frame of grayish twigs and arching stems that make up the Guelder rose. Although not the most graceful looking of shrubs the 4 metre by 4 metre Guelder rose makes up for this with its thicket forming ability and uncanny knack of regrowth even when cut to ground level. The very large white outer layer of flowers also attracts pollinating insects to the inner part of the flower. Some can self-pollinate. Some species are sterile and don't have berries.


The Guelder Rose prefers to grow at low altitudes and in semi-shade in Scotland and England. It is native to the woodlands of the European deciduous forest. Thus guelder rose is widely distributed in Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, north and west Asia.


It is found in woods, scrub and hedges, especially on damp, lime-rich, soils. It is found at the edges of woods, hedgerows and marshes. In the United States it is found in agricultural zones which have a relatively cool climate. It grows in both heavy clay and acidic soil. This Shrub will grow well in a wide variety of loam or soils pertaining to most average garden situations, a pH which can apply to most normal garden soil conditions.


Seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Germination can be slow, sometimes taking more than 18 months. If the seed is harvested 'green' and sown immediately in a cold frame, it should germinate in the spring. Stored seed will require 2 months warm then 3 months cold stratification and can still take 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame or greenhouse. Plant out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of soft-wood, early summer in a frame. Pot up into individual pots once they start to root and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Plant them into individual pots as soon as they start to root. These cuttings can be difficult to overwinter, it is best to keep them in a greenhouse or cold frame until the following spring before planting them out.They should root in early spring - pot them up when large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer if sufficient new growth is made, otherwise keep them in a cold frame for the next winter and then plant them out in the spring.The bark is collected in April and May, cut into pieces and dried.

Flowering Season

The conspicuous, large, nearly flat topped heads of snow-white flowers are in bloom during the early spring.

Pests and Diseases

The Guelder Rose can be an invasive shrub and therefore is definitely not threatened.Viburnum leaf beetles feed on many species of Viburnum in both adult and larval stages. The beetles are very damaging because of this successive feeding by larvae followed by adults; bushes do not have time to re-vegetate between beetle stages. Two or three consecutive years of defoliation can cause significant die-back of the canopy and kill a bush. It is also affected by a foliage diseases showing symptoms of variegation, light green to white patches, vein yellowing and necrosis.

Parts Used


The bark and the fruit are the most commonly used parts of the guelder rose for its medicinal and commercial applications.

Medicinal Applications


• Its bark is used as an herbal medicine for cramps, swollen glands, mums and asthma.

• The leaves and fruits are ant scorbutic, emetic and laxative.

• It acts as a muscle relaxant in relieving any over tense muscle, whether smooth muscle in the intestines, airways, or uterus, or striated muscle in the limbs or back.

• Guelder rose is a powerful antispasmodic and is much used in the treatment of asthma, cramps and other conditions such as colic or painful menstruation

• The herb also relieves constipation, colic, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as the physical symptoms of nervous tension.

• It is also used as a sedative remedy for nervous conditions.

• The bark contains 'scopolamine', a coumarin that has a sedative affect on the uterus.

• A tea is used internally to relieve all types of spasms, including menstrual cramps, spasms after childbirth and threatened miscarriage. It is also used in the treatment of nervous complaints and debility.

• A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh bark.

• The bark is what is used for making a cardiac tonic and cardiovascular muscle relaxant; both help with relieving nervous tension and heart palpitation often associated with high blood pressure.

Commercial Applications


• Fruit are eaten either raw or cooked.

• Used as a cranberry substitute in making, jellies, preserves etc.

• A red dye is obtained from the fruit.

• An ink can be made from the dried berries.

• It is also used as a decorative shrub.

• It is an important food source for insects and birds who eat the nectar and the berries.

• The wood can be used to make skewers.

• Guelder rose berries had their uses in Siberia, where they were often fermented and distilled to enable the production of an alcoholic spirit.


The astro reports for the plant guelder rose say that it is strongly under the influence of the planet Saturn and associated with the Capricorn zodiac sign.

Folklores and Myths

Wonderfully reflective skin coats the jolly red flesh of the Guelder roses fruit, causing it to resemble the cranberry, this look combined with the timing of its ripening seems to whisper Christmas is on its way. Folklores say that crampbark has a long history of use by Native Americans for gynecologic problems. The Vitamin C rich berries of Guelder Rose are a relative of the traditional cranberry; the berries are highly poisonous if uncooked. It is also believed to indicate peace and tranquility.Guelder rose according to myths symbolizes aging.