Blood-Red September Drupes

Berries of Guelder rose (1)

The attractive, juicy, shiny, red berries of Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) or Caorchon in Irish are a lovely sight now as they hang in inviting clusters from the hedgerows (1). These “berries” are technically drupes.  (A drupe is a fleshy fruit with a central seed within a hard substance. This looks like a little stone).  The drupes of Guelder rose should not be eaten raw, however, as they are bitter and mildly toxic, but they can be made into jellies, teas and jams.  Birds such as bullfinches, mistle thrushes and visiting waxwings devour them.

Reddening leaves (2)

The palmate, lobed leaves of this hedgerow shrub turn to an attractive red in autumn too (2). Even though “rose” is in its name it is not a rose and is not related to the rose.  It is thought that the “Guelder” in the name refers to the province of Gelderland in Holland where a cultivar of this plant was found.

Drupes in plastic bag (3)

The seeds can be sown after gathering. First place the fruits in a plastic bag until they rot (3). Remove the seeds then and wash them in water. Sow the seeds in trays of seed compost and cover with about 2 cm of compost. Leave outside. Some will germinate immediately; others may not germinate for several springs after sowing.

Seeds (4)

Some people mix the seeds in a pot of seed compost made from 50% peat-free compost and 50% horticultural sand (4). They leave this outside until May and then sow the seeds in groups of three in 13cm diameter pots of compost. Plants become visible the following spring.

Guelder rose blossom (5a)
Guelder rose flowers in hedgerow (5b)

Considering its striking, creamy white, flat topped fragrant flowers which appear in June and attract bees and hoverflies, its eye-catching clusters of drooping, translucent, berries and gradually reddening leaves in autumn this is indeed a shrub of merit (5a;5b)