The Guelder - Rose

viburnum opulus l.

It is a lush shrub, growing 3-5 meters tall, with an asymmetric crown. The bark is greyish, the leaves are broad, 3-lobed with coarsely serrated margins, growing up to 10 cm. In autumn the leaves turn into scarlet colour. The shrub blooms from May to July. The flowers are white, comprising of 5 petals gathered in large corymbs. The fruit are very characteristic, intensively red, globosely round, resembling the red beads (the Polish name is derived from a word ‘korale’, which means ‘a string of beads’ in English). Raw fruit are toxic, only becoming edible after the first slight frost, or when cooked. They were processed in kitchen to produce juice, jams and wine. Gynaecological haemorrhages and painful periods were treated with the guelder – rose. What is more, it has an anti-inflammatory effect and is rich in vitamin C. This shrub often appears in folk songs. It is associated with youth, beauty and virginity, hence being girls’ attribute. Although a bride has it woven into her wedding garland, it  symbolises death and is connected with a funeral ceremony. In deserted villages the bush can be encountered on roadsides, old balks, but also grows on graveyards, especially next to the graves of young, unmarried girls.