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Viburnum opulus
Plant with fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Viburnum
Species: V. opulus
Binomial name
Viburnum opulus

Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose, Water Elder, European Cranberrybush, Cramp Bark, Snowball Tree) is a species of Viburnum, native to Europe and Asia. Some botanists also treat the closely related North American species Viburnum trilobum as a variety of it (as Viburnum opulus var. americanum Ait.), or a subspecies, Viburnum opulus subsp. trilobum (Marshall) Clausen. The common name 'Guelder Rose' appears to have originated because a popular cultivar, the Snowball tree (see Cultivation and uses) supposedly first originated in the Dutch province of Gelderland.[1]


Flowers (left) and fruit

It is a deciduous shrub growing to 4-5 m tall. The leaves are opposite, three-lobed, 5-10 cm 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 are valvate bud scales.

The hermaphrodite flowers are white, produced in corymbs 4-11 cm diameter at the top of the stems; each corymb comprises a ring of outer sterile flowers 1.5-2 cm 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.

Cultivation and uses

It is commonly 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' (synonym 'Sterile', 'Snowball'), in which all the flowers are only of the larger sterile type, with globular flower heads. There is some confusion, as there are a few other bushes, including other members of the Viburnum genus, also referred to as "snowball bush".

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, where it has been misleadingly re-named as "European Cranberrybush" (it is not a cranberry).

The fruit is edible in small quantities, with a very acidic taste; it can be used to make jelly. It is however very mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea if eaten in large amounts (Plants for a Future). This can be reduced by drying the bark first.

The dried bark is used in a tincture, known as "Cramp Bark," to alleviate painful menstrual cramps.

This herb is often used for treating feminine problems like menstrual cramps, postpartum discomfort, preventing miscarriages and internal hemorrhages and is used as a uterine sedative also. Additionally, it has a reputation for lowering diastolic blood pressure because of a reputed action on smooth muscle, and is both a smooth and skeletal muscle relaxant and antispasmodic.


  1. ^ The Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain p.143.
  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


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Viburnum opulus


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Euasterids II
Ordo: Dipsacales
Familia: Adoxaceae
Genus: Viburnum
Species: Viburnum opulus
Varieties: V. o. var. americanum - V. o. var.  calvescens - V. o. var. opulus - V. o. var. sargentii


Viburnum opulus L.


  • Species Plantarum 1:268. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Česky: Kalina obecná
Dansk: Almindelig Kvalkved
Deutsch: Gewöhnlicher Schneeball, Gemeiner Schneeball, Herzbeer, Blutbeer, Drosselbeerstrauch, Geißenball, Glasbeere, Schlangenbeere, Wasserholder, Wasser-Schneeball
Eesti: Harilik lodjapuu
English: Guelder Rose, Water Elder, European Cranberrybush, Cramp Bark, Snowball Tree
Español: Bola de Nieve, Rosa de Gueldres, Aleluyos
Français: Viorne Obier, Rose de Gueldre, Boule de Neige
Nederlands: Gelderse Roos
Polski: Kalina Koralowa
Русский: Калина обыкновенная
Svenska: Skogsolvon
Türkçe: Gilaburu
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Viburnum opulus on Wikimedia Commons.


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