Postcard from Ukraine : Kalyna Berries

Guelder rose berries, called kalyna in Ukrainian, taste like cranberries and have a bitter-sour scent reminiscent of almonds and lingonberries. After the frost hits them, they lose their tannic pungency and become sweeter. They’re known to be a panacea for colds and sore throats, but we leave ours for the birds. The truth is that we prefer their red glimmer among the bare branches. No other sight is more quintessentially Ukrainian. No other plant has richer symbolic meaning.

In Ukrainian folklore, kalyna represents female beauty–the effervescence of youth with its delicate white flowers and mature sensuality with its red berries. Red stands for passion, and so the crimson hue of the berries represents love. If you look closer at Ukrainian embroideries, you can see kalyna berries and flowers telling their story of life coming a full circle.

Meanwhile, the kalyna in my grandmother’s garden stands covered in ice. Its ripe berries, however, hint that summer is not far away.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, kalyna, guelder rose.



  • Miya: Beautiful, February 14, 2020 at 9:09am Reply

  • spe: What a delightful image and they sound delicious – I’m thinking jelly or chutney. Thank you! February 14, 2020 at 11:21am Reply

    • Victoria: People do cook with them, but they have a very pungent taste. February 15, 2020 at 3:34am Reply

  • Klaas: Just lovely, Victoria, thank you! A tiny splash of vibrant red on (yet another) grey day.

    I’ve had two rather baroque branches full of little dried red berries in a vase since december. They still look lovely. We need all the color we can get during winter! Though the daffodils are out here already…..spring is around the corner 😉 February 15, 2020 at 7:18am Reply

    • Victoria: This shade of red is so uplifting, isn’t it! February 17, 2020 at 11:32am Reply

  • Karen A: Delightful post Victoria! I’m sure I’m not the only one happy for reminders of beauty. February 15, 2020 at 7:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear it! February 17, 2020 at 11:32am Reply

  • Aurora: Any tiny change in nature is so delightful at this time of year, I didn’t know these tiny berries. Tiny snowdrops (although there has been no snow at all here) grow in front of the library, so delicate like white fairy wings. Now you are in Ukraine you will notice the awakening of spring, I enjoy your nature posts very much. February 15, 2020 at 12:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, it’s so important to notice these things. Sometimes it’s harder in the city, and yet… February 17, 2020 at 11:33am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Wonderful post and I enjoyed revisiting the beautiful white on white embroidery also. I just tried some the bleu by Mariage Freres this week. I was thinking about your post about blue tea sometime last year I believe, and I decided to try the blue tea. It was beautiful and delicious! February 16, 2020 at 11:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I was brewing a pot of blue tea just a couple of hours ago. This time I used blue malva flowers, which also give a nice azure shade. February 17, 2020 at 11:34am Reply

  • Eudore: Thanks for the postcard💐 February 16, 2020 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Olivia: Hello, I was wondering if you knew what the flowers of the kalyna smell like? I’m finding it hard to get a definite answer because there are so many different viburnums. I read somewhere that they smell mildly sweet, spicy, vanilla and honey but I’m not sure if was for the kalyna or for a different viburnum. February 5, 2024 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: They have a delicate scent, green, with a bitter almond hint. February 5, 2024 at 9:31am Reply

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