State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Viburnum opulus L.

  • Opulus edulis J.S.Presl
  • Opulus glandulosa Moench.
  • Opulus lobatofolia Gilib.
  • Opulus oxycoccos J.S.Presl
Vernacular Name
Guelder-rose, Water elder, Cramp bark, Snowball tree, European cranberrybush
Conservation status
No status defined
Value of species
Medicinal plant; Ornamental species; Nectar source; Edible
Occurrence: Ab(A, N), ?Ag, Al, Ar, Au(A, L), Be(B, L), BH, Br, Bu, By, Cg, Cs, Ct, Da, Es, Fe, Ga(C, F), Ge, Gg(A, D, G), Gr, Hb(E, N), He, Ho, Hs(S), Hu, It, La, Lt, Mo, No, Po, Rf(C, CS, E, K, N, NW, S), Rm, Sa, Sk, Sl, Sr, Su, Tu(A), -Tu(E), Uk(K) (EuroMed, 2018). A species of flowering plant in the family Adoxaceae (formerly Caprifoliaceae) native to Europe, northern Africa and central Asia. Viburnum opulus is a deciduous shrub growing to 4–5 m (13–16 ft) tall. The leaves are opposite, three-lobed, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) 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 valvate bud scales. The hermaphrodite flowers are white, produced in corymbs 4–11 cm (2–4 in) in diameter at the top of the stems; each corymb comprises a ring of outer sterile flowers 1.5–2 cm in 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. Viburnum opulus is grown as an ornamental plant for its flowers and berries, growing best on moist, moderately alkaline soils, though tolerating most soil types well. It is naturalised in North America, where it is called "European cranberrybush" (although 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. The term cramp bark is related to the properties of the bark's ability to reduce smooth muscle tightness. It is called cramp bark as relieving this type of muscle tightness is most often associated with relieving women's menstrual (period) cramps. However, this can also be used during pregnancy for cramps or pain and general muscle cramping. Viburnum opulus (kalyna) is one of the national symbols of Ukraine. Mentions of the bush can be found throughout the Ukrainian folklore such as songs, picturesque art, Ukrainian embroidery, and others. Chervona Kalyna was the anthem of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Its symbolic roots can be traced to the Slavic paganism of millennia ago. According to a legend kalyna was associated with the birth of the Universe, the so-called Fire Trinity: the Sun, the Moon, and the Star. Its berries symbolize blood and the undying trace of family roots. Kalyna is often depicted on the Ukrainian embroidery: towels and shirts. In Slavic paganism kalyna also represents the beauty of a young lady which rhymes well in the Ukrainian language: Ka-ly-na - Div-chy-na.
Book reference
  • Кузярін О.Т. Судинні рослини території торфовища "Білогорща” (м. Львів) // Наукові основи збереження біотичної різноманітності. - 2010. - Т.1(8), №1. - С.75-90.
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  • Alexander KUZYARIN, Dr, e-mail:

Taxonomic branch