Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)

Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus),also known as Water Elder, European Cranberrybush, Cramp Bark or Snowball Tree) is a species of Viburnum native to Europe and Asia.

  • Guelder Rose Tree  -  Viburnum Opulus  -  Mature Tree In Blossom
  • Guelder Rose Tree  -  Viburnum Opulus  -  Blossom
  • Guelder Rose Tree  -  Viburnum Opulus  -  Fruit And Leaves

Useful info about Guelder Rose trees

Latin NameViburnum opulus
TypeDeciduous (loses its leaves in winter)
HeightCan grow up to 5 metres (20 feet)
SpreadThe branches can spread out to 1 metres (3 feet)
Soil Types PreferredChalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Locations SuitableFarmland, Gardens, Hedgerows
FlowersWhite flowers in June
FruitBright red berries in autumn / winter


The common name 'Guelder Rose' appears to have originated because a popular cultivar, the Snowball tree supposedly first originated in the Dutch province of Gelderland.

Guelder Rose 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.


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. 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.


Any uses for trees or tree extracts, whether edible or medicinal, have not been tried or tested by EFORESTS.

Please take caution and seek proper advice before attempting any recipes or medicinal extracts from any of the trees listed on our site.

Culture and Symbolism

The Guelder Rose is a national symbol of Ukraine.

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