This plant is native to Britain, Europe and parts of Asia; it has been grown in our gardens since before 1600.
It is sometimes known as Cramp Bark as it was used in herbal medicines associated with childbirth. The fruit which is high in vitamin C, can be eaten fresh but it is very bitter; however it is made into a sauce similar to cranberry and served with poultry. The twigs were used as cooking skewers. Its common name is derived from the Dutch Province of Gueldres, where it was first cultivated.
The Scottish artist and writer Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) who often drew inspiration from nature, celebrated the plant in a work he created at Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills. A visit to the garden will reveal the following inscription on a tablet of stone at the entrance to Huff Lane within the area known as the English Park Land.
A Woodland Flute
Silver Birch, Hornbeam
Guelder Rose, Aspen, Plum