NATURE TABLE: Guelder rose

In general, native Irish trees and shrubs don’t display the brilliant autumn colour of their counterparts from north America or eastern Asia.

One exception is the guelder rose which at this time of year has brilliant red, yellow and purple leaves off-setting clusters of shining red berries.

The berries are preceded in summer by creamy white flowers. It’s not a rose but a member of the viburnum family with many relatives that are ornamental garden plants. It forms a rather untidy shrub which can grow to four metres tall and four metres wide. It’s not exactly common but is widespread in areas with wet, lime-rich soil. It’s very frost hardy and reasonably shade-tolerant and grows mainly in hedgerows and scrubby woodland. The berries are bitter and unpalatable when they’re raw but can be made into preserves or drinks. Birds are fond of them and guelder rose is an excellent addition to a wildlife garden. Guelderland is a province of the Netherlands but the connection with the shrub is not clear.


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