Viburnum, Moschatel and Dwarf Elder: more members of the Adoxaceae Part 2

For easier reading I’ve used colour coding! Blue background for interesting facts and wildlife uses, green for edible and other uses, red for danger or medicinal uses.

Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel)

Moschatel has six other interesting common names: five-faced bishop, hollowroot, muskroot, townhall clock, tuberous crowfoot and Good Friday plant! It is a small perennial herbaceous plant, flowering early in the spring and dying down to ground level in summer immediately after the berries are mature..


It has a boreal, circumpolar distribution in Europe, Asia and North America. It is widespread and common in most parts of the British Isles, preferring damp shady situations, but becomes scarce in the north and west of Scotland and parts of eastern England.

It is absent from Ireland. Its distribution in parts of Wales is localised, occurring only at sites where are base rich soil, such as Coed Dolgarrog National Nature Reserve in Conwy.

No known uses to people, just an interesting little plant! The plant and its flowers have a musk-like scent, which it emits towards evening when the dew falls. If the plant is bruised this scent disappears.


 is a genus of about 150–175 species of evergreen or deciduous shrubs or (in a few cases) small trees native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

It has only two known native species and about 6 species occasionally occurring in the wild which are escaped from gardens and naturalized.

Viburnum opulus flowers and berries (photo Wouter Hagens- Wikipedia)

Viburnum opulus or guelder rose.

The common name ‘guelder rose’ relates to the Dutch province of Gelderland, where a popular cultivar, the snowball tree, supposedly originated.

Ornamental and Wildlife Use:

It is a rare shrub and is an ancient-woodland indicator. If you spot it while you’re out exploring, it could be a sign you’re standing in a rare and special habitat. 

The red berries are an important food source for birds, including bullfinch and mistle thrush. The shrub canopy provides shelter for other wildlife. The flowers are especially attractive to hoverflies.

It is a useful and beautiful hedgerow plant also grown as an ornamental plant for its flowers, autumn colour and berries, growing best on moist, moderately alkaline soils, though tolerating most soil types well.

Several cultivars have been selected, including ‘Roseum’ (synonym ‘Sterile’, ‘Snowball’), in which all the flowers are only of the larger sterile type, with globular flower heads. 

Edible Use:

The fruit is edible in small quantities, with a very acidic taste; it can be used to make jelly.

It is however mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea if eaten in large amounts.

Medicinal Uses:

Guelder Rose is able to relieve muscle tension, both in skeletal muscles and in the smooth muscle of the intestines, lungs and uterus. It is used on its own for cramps and muscle spasms, including uterine cramps, back pain, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. Also in formulae for high blood pressure, arthritis and nervous tension.

Viburnum lantana By Opioła Jerzy (Wikipedia)

Viburnum lantana or Wayfayring tree

Uses for wildlife:

Birds will eat the berries and insects such as hoverflies feed on the nectar. The larvae of several moth species will feed on the leaves.

Ornamental and Other Uses:

These days, cultivated varieties of the wayfaring tree are often planted as an ornamental.

Traditionally, however, it was used for other purposes. Its strong bendy stalks used to be used to tie hay bales, and there is evidence that, in Europe at least, its straight wood was used to make arrows.

Dwarf Elder (picture taken at Heemtuin Nieuwkoop, Netherlands by Matt Summers)

Sambucus ebulus or Dwarf Elder

This is a less known herbaceous species of Elder also known as danewortdane weeddanesblood,  European dwarf elderwalewort, dwarf elderberry, elderwort and blood hilder. It is native to southern and central Europe and southwest Asia. It is an archaeophyte in the B.I. according to Stace

The name danewort comes from the belief that it only grows on the sites of battles that involved the Danes. The term ‘walewort’ or ‘walwort’ meant ‘foreigner plant.’ The plant’s stems and leaves turn red in autumn and this may explain the link with blood. The word Dane may link to an old term for diarrhoea.

Edible Uses:

Fruit – cooked. It is used as a flavouring in soups. Leaves are used as a tea substitute.

The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked.

Medicinal Uses:

Dwarf elder is one of the best known medicinal herbs since ancient times. In view of its benefits as a widely applicable phytomedicine, it is still used in folk medicine of different parts of the world. In addition to its nutritional values, dwarf elder contains different phytochemicals among which flavonoids and lectins are responsible for most of its therapeutic effects. Dwarf elder has been used for different ailments including: joint pains, cold, wounds, and infections.

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