Kew today - Cornelian cherry

A fabulous tree for wildlife, the early-flowering cornelian cherry is a blessing for foraging insects out and about at this time of year.

03 Mar 2010

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Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry)

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas)

A native of central and southern Europe and western Asia, this tree (or large shrub) was introduced to the UK over a hundred years ago and has been popular ever since.

From the small star-shaped yellow flowers which appear on bare stems in winter and early spring to the bright red fruit and reddish-purple leaves of autumn and the peeling bark of the mature specimen, the cornelian cherry provides year-round interest.

If you can get to them before the birds do, the rich red fruits are edible when fully ripe, and can be made into syrups and jams. In parts of Europe, the fruit is used for everything from distilling vodka to being stored in brine and eaten like olives.

One of Kew's best specimens is planted to the north of Museum No. 1, near the Temple of Aeolus, and others are situated near the Ice House and the Orangery.

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