The Guelder Rose is a rare sight at Ashridge, but two young specimens have been spotted on the open common above Step’s Hill at SP962159. This particular “rose” has no thorns since it is part of the Viburnum family rather than the Rosa group. The name of Guelder is linked to Gelderland in Holland, and Rose is probably a simile for the berries with reference to the rich red colour found in roses.
It is a native deciduous upright shrub (Viburnhum opulus) reaching up to twelve feet in height, and it is conspicuous in Autumn because of the round translucent bright red berries which appear in hanging bunches. The fruits are an important food source for birds, including bullfinches and mistle thrush. The berries can be mildly toxic if eaten but can be cooked to produce jelly or jam. The white flowers are especially attractive for hoverflies in Spring. The shrubs are currently hemmed in by hawthorn and dog rose and it is hoped that the Trust will clear some of the scrub to allow the shrubs to develop. Guelder Rose likes damp conditions so some shading of the roots is necessary. Perhaps a job for the volunteers. In the meantime Caleb the forester will be setting some seeds in the greenhouse at the Estate Office hoping to raise some new plants for Ashridge.