Guelder Rose - Encyclopedia

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GUELDER ROSE, so called from Guelderland, its supposed source, termed also marsh elder, rose elder, water elder (Ger. Wasserholder, Schneeball; Fr. viorne-obier, l'obier d'Europe), known botanically as Viburnum Opulus, a shrub or small tree of the natural order Caprifoliaceae, a native of Britain, and widely distributed in the temperate and colder parts of Europe, Asia and North America. It is common in Ireland, but rare in Scotland. In height it is from 6 to 12 ft., and it thrives best in moist situations. The leaves are smooth, 2 to 3 in. broad, with 3 to 5 unequal serrate lobes, and glandular stipules adnate to the stalk. In autumn the leaves change their normal bright green for a pink or crimson hue. The flowers, which appear in June and July, are small, white, and arranged in cymes 2 to 4 in. in diameter. The outer blossoms in the wild plant have an enlarged corolla, 4 in. in diameter, and are devoid of stamens or pistils; in the common cultivated variety all the flowers are sterile and the inflorescence is globular, hence the term "snowball tree" applied to the plant, the appearance of which at the time of flowering has been prettily described by Cowper in his Winter Walk at Noon. The guelder rose bears juicy, red, elliptical berries, 3 in. long, which ripen in September, and contain each a single compressed seed. In northern Europe these are eaten, and in Siberia, after fermentation with flour, they are distilled for spirit. The plant has, however, emetic, purgative and narcotic properties; and Taylor (Med. Jurisp. i. 448, znd ed., 1873) has recorded an instance of the fatal poisoning of a child by the berries. Both they and the bark contain valerianic acid. The woody shoots of the guelder rose are manufactured into various small articles in Sweden and Russia. Another member of the genus, Viburnum, Lantana, wayfaring tree, is found in dry copses and hedges in England, except in the north.

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