Cornelian cherry

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Cornelian cherry
Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), illustration

Cornelian cherry ( Cornus mas ), illustration

Nuclear eudicotyledons
Order : Dogwood-like (Cornales)
Family : Dogwood family (Cornaceae)
Genre : Dogwood ( Cornus )
Type : Cornelian cherry
Scientific name
Cornus mas

The cornel cherry ( Cornus mas ), also Herlitze, Dürlitze, Hirlnuss, in Austria also Dirndl, Dirndling, Dirndlstrauch or yellow dogwood, in German-speaking Switzerland known as Tierlibaum , is a species of plant and belongs to the dogwoods ( Cornus ). The flowering time of this shrub is in Germany in March / April, usually even before forsythia .


Fruit cluster
budding bud of the inflorescence
Cornelian cherry in blossom
Fruiting branches of the cornel
Cornelian cherry pollen grains (400 ×)
Cornus mas , stone pits and dried fruits

The cornel cherry is a large shrub or tree that is widespread in southern Europe and parts of central Europe and is also often found in Germany - mostly planted. The stature height is a good 4 m at the age of 25 years, at 50 years it reaches almost 8 m. The logs become 15-20 cm thick. The initially yellow-gray bark later forms a protruding in thin, bent scales and peeling bark . The roots penetrate deep into the soil, but also form an intensive root system on the surface, which is, however, easily damaged by flooding, soil compaction or salt. The young shoots are hairy greenish, later glabrous. The leaves are ovate-elliptical, pointed, 4–10 cm long, shiny on top, hairy on both sides, pressed down, with 3 to 5 pairs of veins . In autumn they turn yellow, sometimes orange, but in some years they can remain green until the leaves fall. The flowers are golden yellow and are available in small, to the base with four yellow bracts provided umbels . Each individual flower has the characteristic four petals like all dogwoods. They appear from February to April before the leaves on the old wood. The flower buds are already created in autumn, which is why there are two different winter buds: the elongated leaf buds and the spherical future inflorescences. The resulting fruits are shiny red, elongated and about 2 cm long, contain red pulp and an elongated stone core, are edible and sour. There are usually several seeds in each stone core.

Due to the early flowering period, the Cornelian cherry is a particularly important nourishing plant for bees, and thanks to the fruits it is a bird protection and nutrient wood. The shrub is also suitable for regularly cut hedges.

The wood with its reddish-white sapwood and dark core is so hard and heavy that it does not float in water, but rather sinks. It is the hardest wood that grows in Europe.

The shrub is very noticeable in early spring when it is covered with thousands of small, golden-yellow flowers before the leaves shoot, giving off a faint honey scent. In gardens, however, it has now faced competition from foreign early bloomers such as forsythia , witch hazel or Farreri snowball .

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 18, less often 27.

Botanical classification

The Cornelian cherry gave its name to both the Cornales order and the Cornaceae (or Cornazeen) family, in English: Hornstrauch- or Cornelian-cherry or dogwood family. Within the genus of the dogwood ( Cornus ), the Cornelian cherry is classified in the subgenus Cornus , along with its closest relatives in East Asia, such as the Asian and Chinese Cornelian cherries .

The fruits, which are also called cornel cherries, are botanically not closely related to the cherry. Like this they are a stone fruit, with a large, two-seeded core, but belong to different orders of the plant kingdom: the Cornelian cherry to the Cornales , the cherry (botanically: Prunus ) to the Rosales and there the rose family like most fruit trees and bushes . Cornus mas has only been given the name cherry in German, English ( cornelian cherry ) and Swedish ( körsbärskornell ) . In the vernacular, Cornelian cherries are also jokingly called cock's testicles, probably because they usually hang down in pairs, weigh only 1.5–2.5 g and are usually smaller than real cherries.

In Germany there are two main types of Cornus: the Cornelian cherry and the very common red dogwood ( Cornus sanguinea ). This was earlier botanically called Cornus femina (= female dogwood), probably because it has softer wood compared to the cornel cherry. The botanists Dietmar Aichele and Hans-Werner Schwegler ( The Flowering Plants of Central Europe, 1994), who see the female counterpart to the cornel in the woolly snowball ( Viburnum lantana ), are of a different opinion : the particularly hardwood cornel ( Cornus mas = male dogwood) used to be in German Cornelbaum male called, the snowball, softer in the wood, Cornelbaum female ( Cornus femina ). The difference between female and male does not have to do directly with gender - the sexuality of plants was only recognized at the end of the 17th century - rather the coarser was often referred to as male, the finer as female.

Other species of the genus Cornus can easily be confused with the cornel : the Cornus officinalis and Cornus chinensis , native to East Asia, look similar. However, these species can be found sporadically in botanical gardens in Europe , and they are difficult to obtain commercially. A branch without flowers or fruits can be confused with many other dogwoods that show the typically shaped leaves with the veins bent towards the tip of the leaf. In the red dogwood, the second-order leaf veins are also clearly visible, while in the cornel leaves only the first-order leaf veins stand out. In winter, the spherical flower buds, in which the inflorescences are already laid out for early flowering in spring, are a good distinguishing feature.

In some northern areas of Germany, such as in East Frisia, there is another native Cornus species in the form of an approximately 20 cm high perennial, Cornus suecica , the Swedish dogwood. It is also called the Swedish cornelle.

In addition, a number of other Cornus species are planted in Germany. For most of them, no German name has yet established itself. The best known among them are the dogwood ( Cornus florida ) from North America with over 30 garden forms and the similar, somewhat later flowering Cornus kousa and Cornus nuttallii , both with several cultivated forms.


There are a number of cultivated forms of the Cornelian cherry, with yellow or edged leaves, with white, yellow, purple-red or spherical fruits and with dwarf or pyramidal growth. Some of the more popular forms include:

  • 'Alba': fruits almost white.
  • 'Aurea': leaves yellow, fruits red.
  • 'Elegantissima': Leaves partly broadly yellow or pink edged, partly completely yellow.
  • 'Flava': fruits yellow.
  • 'Macrocarpa': fruits larger than the species, pear-shaped. In culture in the Balkans and the Caucasus. Ornamental fruits.
  • 'Nana': Dwarf and rounded growth.
  • 'Pyramidalis': stiffly upright growth, branches only slightly protruding. Very rare.
    • Of which the shape 'Sphaerocarpa Cretzoiu': fruits spherical, not elongated. From Rumania.
  • 'Variegata': leaves regularly with wide white margins.
  • 'Violacea': fruits purple-red. Before 1865. Rare. Ornamental fruits.

Several of them can often be found in German parks, sometimes also in private gardens.

With regard to the fruits, too, there is now a larger selection available through breeding. While wild fruits weigh around two grams and the core content is 20 percent and more, the varieties can be up to three times this weight. The following cornel cherry varieties are listed in the descriptive list of wild fruit varieties of the Federal Plant Variety Office , 1999:

  • 'Devin': medium strong growing; very high and balanced yields. Fruits about 4.5 g, ripening from mid-September.
  • 'Titus': strong growing; high to very high regular yields. Fruits about 2.7 g, ripening from mid-September.
  • 'Bo 2034': Fruits around 3–4 g, ripening from the end of August.
  • 'Bo 2035': Fruits around 4 g, ripening from mid to late September. These four varieties were bred in Slovakia.
  • 'Jolico': Fruits with a weight of around 6.5 g, very large, core content less than 10 percent, high sugar and vitamin C content. From Austria, discovered in a former botanical garden.
  • 'Schumener': Lush yellow flowers in March / April. Large, oval fruits; otherwise like 'Jolico'. From Austria.
  • 'Mascula': Male variety, heavily flowering, suitable as a fertilization aid, already flowers in the young plant stage. From Austria.
  • 'Kazanlak': Vigorous, large-fruited, high-yielding. New variety from Bulgaria.
  • 'Cormas' and 'Macrocarpa': (= "large-fruited"), selected in Denmark in 1990.

In the USA the varieties 'Helen', 'Pioneer', 'Red Star' and 'Elegant' are on the market. The Bundessortenamt anticipates that further varieties will come onto the market in the next few years. In Germany, the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences in Bavaria and the Humboldt University in Berlin , among others, are concerned with the preservation of some of the above fruit varieties, including the 'Auslese 93 / I' variety. In order to get a good fruit set, it is recommended to plant two varieties together, whereby the wild species can also be used as pollinators.

These cultivated forms can also tolerate heat and drought, cold winters and frosts of flowers. Lime-rich soils are particularly appealing to them; however, they also thrive on other soils as long as they are not waterlogged or compacted. There are no crop protection problems; they are also immune to fire blight. Game browsing does not occur.


Cornels should be harvested when they are almost overripe, i.e. dark to black-red. They are then sweeter, softer and easier to pick. The stones can then also be removed more easily from the pulp. The fruits gradually ripen in August / September. Under no circumstances should you shake the branches during harvest or knock the fruits down with sticks, as the blossoms will grow from mid-August for the next year. The fruits fall from the bush by themselves when they are ripe. To make it easier to collect, fine-meshed nets are spread out under the tree beforehand. The yield can vary greatly from year to year. A fattening year with a very rich harvest is often followed by a lean year ( alternation ).

Cornelian cherry fruits



Geographical distribution of the Cornelian cherry

The Cornelian cherry is predominantly a plant from the southern, warmer countries of Europe. It is also widespread in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caucasus and Crimea. Its northern border in Europe runs roughly along the line from southern Belgium, Luxembourg, central Germany (Jena), Galicia and southern Russia. Apparently it is particularly common in Italy, in the Hungarian Danube floodplains and in the Lower Austrian black pine stands. Fossil remains of the genus Cornus from the younger Cretaceous period and several species from the Tertiary have been found. In Italy, cornel pits were often found in stone and bronze age pile dwellings . The Cornelian cherry was apparently so widespread in Welschland that it was also called the Welsche cherry. In Zedler's Universal Lexicon of 1733, for example, it says “that the Cornelles in Upper Germany are still called Welsche Cherries”. It also says there: "This tree is maintained in those gardens and pleasure courts". There is evidence that the Cornelian cherry has been planted in Germany since the beginning of the Middle Ages, for example in the Benedictine monastery gardens . Even Saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), a Benedictine abbess, recommended it for gout and for the stomach. A number of other references to the designation date from the 16th century. For example, in England, where the Cornelian cherry is not native, there is evidence of a specimen dating back to 1551 in Hampton Court Palace near London, the then seat of the king.

In Germany today the Cornelian cherry can be found everywhere, especially in gardens and parks, where it is planted in early spring primarily because of the yellow flowers. How far it occurs wild in Germany and not just overgrown, still seems controversial. The wild stocks occur mainly in the south and west of Germany, among others in the Saar and Moselle areas , near Aachen, on the Rhine near Cologne, on the Main near Frankfurt, on the Danube west of Regensburg, in the southern Harz, in Thuringia, especially in limestone area, as in the valley of the Saale to Halle, in Ilmtal , where a mountain Herlitz mountain is called, and Dresden. In North Rhine-Westphalia the Cornelian cherry is on the red list of endangered species . After that, it only occurs there wild as a so-called autochthonous (i.e. not planted or overgrown) plant in the Eifel / Siebengebirge region and in the Lower Rhine Bay .


The heat-loving shrub grows wild, especially on sunny, bushy slopes, in sparse forests, on the edges of forests and in hedges, in riparian forests outside the floodplain, often on calcareous soils such as those found in landscapes made of sedimentary rocks from Keuper , Jura or Chalk . He is not picky about it and also tolerates light shadows. It is associated with hornbeam, hazelnut, ivy, honeysuckle, willow and rose species.

In terms of plant sociology , the cornel cherry is regarded as characteristic of the order Quercetalia pubescentis (downy oak forests) and occurs in the Berberidion (heat-loving privet bushes) and Alno-Ulmion (hardwood floodplain).

Ecological importance

Cornelian cherry blossom

Even today, the Cornelian cherry, although it is referred to as an ornamental wood in the Duden and other dictionaries, has its practical use: the heart root has an intensive root system with strong adventitious root formation , which secures soil that is prone to erosion. Since it is cut-resistant and even when it is severely cut back, it is also suitable as a hedge (recommended size: 150–200 cm high, 70–100 cm wide). With its slow growth and maximum height of up to about 8 meters, it fits well into today's small gardens. In addition, it should be resistant to air pollution, should not be attacked by any significant pests and its bark should not suffer from being bitten by game. However, it is one of the trees and shrubs that lose their foliage earliest in autumn.

It also has its value for native animals: Leaves and shoots are gladly accepted by various game species such as the brown hare and deer. The nectar and pollen-rich disk blossoms are the first food for honey and wild bees in spring, along with the sallow . The cherries are eaten by bird species such as grosbeak, bullfinch, nuthatch and jay, as well as dormouse and dormouse. Flies and some species of beetles such as the flat beetle also feed on their pollen and nectar.

Several inflorescences before the leaf shoots
Macro shot of a flower umbel

In North Rhine-Westphalia, the meanwhile restructured State Institute for Ecology, Land Management and Forests (LÖBF) advertised the planting of cornel cherries in press releases in spring 2000. In 1998 she had named the Cornelian cherry in a press campaign as Plant of the Month for March. It is said to be ecologically far superior to the forsythia , which is often planted in early spring and comes from China , since, unlike these insects, it serves as an important source of food. In addition, the fruits are a popular food for songbirds in autumn.

Cut cornel cherry hedges in the Munich court garden

Exposed specimens

The Sigrid dirndl, the largest known cornel cherry tree

The cornel cherry tree reaches an age of about 100 years. If the location is good, however, it is likely to get much older; This quite apart from the fabulous report that an 800-year-old Cornelian cherry is said to have stood in ancient Rome . In Eisleben- Helfta (near the war memorials in Hauptstrasse) there is a specimen that, according to the Bundessortenamt, is around 250 years old. It is 9 meters high and has a trunk circumference of 1.80 meters. Impressive specimens can be found in Bonn- Bad Godesberg at the entrance to the Redoute and in the Godesberg city park. Other old specimens can be found in the garden of the former Loccum monastery (Lower Saxony), on the slope of the Heidelberg Castle , in Bad Wimpfen in the area of ​​the former Imperial Palace , in the Old Botanical Garden of Zurich , in Karlsbad ( Karlovy Vary ) in front of the former Imperial Bath built in 1895 and on the stage of the Feuchtwangen Cloister Play .

Already in the Baroque period the cornel was a popular plant for cut shaped hedges. Examples that have survived are the Hofgarten in the center of Munich , which was laid out in 1620 (redesigned based on original designs after being destroyed in World War II), the south entrance of the late Baroque park of Rheinsberg Castle , the Botanical Garden of the University of Breslau in Wroclaw (Wrocław) and the Hofjägerallee in Berlin , which leads through the Tiergarten to the Victory Column .

The largest known cornel cherry tree is the Sigrid dirndl. It is located in the Austrian Mostviertel in the municipality of Michelbach .

Language history

The botanical name of the Cornelian cherry is Cornus mas, which translates as male horn bush . Even the Romans called the shrub or tree cornus (genitive: corni, also cornus, second syllable long), but like all trees in Latin it was feminine, whereas the fruit was called cornum (genitive: corni ) and was grammatical neuter. For the fruit there were also the diminutive forms cornulium (genitive: cornulii, neutrum) and cornulia (genitive: cornuliae, feminine). A number of Roman writers such as Horace , Ovid , Pliny the Elder and Virgil mention the cornus. In a new work on Latin plant names from antiquity to the 18th century ( Lexicon nominum herbarum, arborum fruticumque linguae latinae ex fontibus latinitatis ante saeculum XVII scriptis collegit et descriptionibus botanicis illustravit ) by Johannes (or János) Stirling, Budapest 1997, the respective passages quoted verbatim, but without translation into German.

Why the Romans called the shrub that is a matter of dispute. Mostly it can be read that the name comes from cornu (horn) and usually on the grounds that the hard wood of the cornel cherry is as firm and tough as horn; Sun already Zedler's Universal Lexicon of 1733, "because the branches of this tree the horns and skull of hardness equal". As early as 1852 Georg Christoph Wittstein refused in his Etymolog.-botanical. Concise dictionary shows the connection between cornu and horn. The Etymological Dictionary of Botanical Plant Names by Gerhard Genaust, which deals in detail with the intricate history of the language of cornus , points to the relationship between the Roman name and the Greek name for cornel and dogwood, namely krános and Kirni, the name for the deity of the cherry trees. There might also be a relationship to the Greek name for cherry tree, kérasus . Furthermore, reference is made to the possibility that in ancient literature the bird cherry ( Prunus avium ) was sometimes meant instead of the cornel cherry . According to Mayer's Great Universal Lexicon, 1983 edition, Cornelian cherry (second syllable long and stressed) is derived from the Old High German cornil tree , which in turn comes from the Middle Latin corniola . This in turn comes from the Latin name cornum, cornus for the cornel cherry tree . In older gardening books, on the other hand, one can read that the name comes from the Vulgar Latin cornolium or corneolus for cornel cherry.

German names

Zedler's Universal Lexicon from 1733 lists the following German terms:

  • for the cornel cherry tree: cornel tree, cornel cherry tree, Welscher cherry tree, cranberry tree, Dierlein tree, Dörnlein, Horlizgen tree, Cornelius cherry tree, Cörner tree, little animal tree;
  • for the fruit: Corneel cherry, Cornell cherry, Welsche cherry, Horlizge, cherry berry, horn cherry, Horniss beer, Horniße, Hirlitze, Dirlitze, Dierlein, Dierlin cherry, Corneel berry, Corlen, Corneole, Cornelle, Zieserlein .

The work Obstsorten by Gerhard Friedrich and Herbert Petzold, published in Radebeul in 1993, names other German names for the cornel cherry, for example:

  • Cornelius cherry, cornille, yellow dogwood, cornelle, dirndl (Bavaria), Dirlitze, Dürrlitze (Swabia), Erlitze, Herlitze, Hörlitze (Thuringia), Krakberry, Knüten (Mecklenburg), Welsche Kirsche, Hornkirsche, Ziserle or Zisserle (Franconia), bone .

The origin of the widely used terms Herlitze and Dirlitze with their various variations (including Dierlibaum, Dirndstrauch and - especially in Austria - Dirndl) is unclear. The term may Dirlitze is of Slavic words drijen (kroat.), Dren (slow.), Drieň (slowak.), Dereń (Pol.) Or inside (tschech.) Derived; after all, Croatia , Slovenia , Slovakia and the Czech Republic were part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy for a long time. In Switzerland , besides the cornel cherry, the animal tree seems to be common; For example, a very old specimen in the Old Botanical Garden in Zurich bears the names: Cornus mas - Cornelian cherry - Tierlibaum.

According to the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm from 1873, the word Herlitze emerged gradually from the word Kornelle, i.e. cornel cherry. After that, other names were Korlesberry and Pumpkin.

The intricate linguistic history of Cornus mas and Cornelian cherry is particularly clear in the dictionary of German plant names by Heinrich Marzell , 1943, which dedicates nine columns to this keyword despite a large number of abbreviations. There you can also find the dates for the first mentions of the various names, including references.

In some German areas, such as Thuringia , the fruit was also called the Jewish cherry, dialect, especially in Switzerland, also Judechriesi. The most common names were probably always cornel and cornel or cornelberry in the most varied of spellings. The names Fürwitzel and Zisserle are attested as early as the 18th century. The former is obviously intended to express that this tree is cheeky, namely that it blooms the earliest of all fruit-bearing trees. The name Zisserle in various forms seems to be common in Franconian and Swabian.

In Transylvania the fruit is called terne, the same name can also be found in the Rhenish dictionary.

Little known today is the name Ruhrbeerstrauch or Ruhrkirsche, which was mentioned in 1790. The fruits were used earlier as a remedy for red dysentery (diarrhea caused by bacteria, often epidemic).

Exist or for the Cornel also passed the other German trivial name Caneelkirsche, Charniboum ( althochdeutsch ) Charnilboum (althochdeutsch) Chuirnil (althochdeutsch) Churinboum (althochdeutsch) Churnilboum (althochdeutsch) Corlebaum ( medium high German ), date palm ( Pongau ) Derlein , Derlenbaum, Diendlbaum, Dientel, Dienkel, Dierling, Dierlitzenbaum, Dintel, Dirheinbaum ( Austria ), Dirlen, Dirlitzen (Halle, Eichstädt), Dirndlbeer ( Carinthia , Swabia ), Wilde Dirntel (Austria), Dirntelbaum (Austria), Dörnleinbaum, Dörling , Dörnlstrauch, Dorlenstrauch, Dornleinbaum, Dürlein, Dürlizen ( Ulm , Augsburg ), Wilder Dürlitzenstrauch, Eperlbaum, Glane, Härtern, Hahnenhoden, Harlsken, Hartbaum, Herlitze (Mark), Herlitzenbaum (Austria, Mark), Herlitzenstrauch, Herlsken, Hermschen, Hermkenbaum , Hernsken, Hersken, Hirlizbaum, Hirlizen (Swabia), Hirnuss (Eichstädt), Hörlitzen, Horlicken, Horlitzen, Hörnerbaum, Horlsken ( Saxony near Leipzig ), Hor lzkebaum, Hornbaum (Austria), Hornstrauch ( Thuringia ), Hürrlitzgenbaum (Thuringia), Judenkirschbaum, Kanetkirschen, Welscher Kirschbaum (Thuringia), Welsch Kirsen, Körlebaum, Körlesbeere ( Hessen ), Körnerbaum (Thuringia), Korbeerbaum, Korle, Korln, Cornelius Cherry, Kornelbaum (Saxony), Kürberen (Middle High German), Kürberenbaum, Kürlbaum, Kürlibaum ( Graubünden ), Kürnbaum, Kürnelbaum (Middle High German), Kurbeerbaum (Middle High German), Kurnelbaum (Middle High German), Tärnebum (Transylvania), Terle ( Bremen ), Terlink (Bremen) , Terlingbaum, Thiarlebaum ( St. Gallen ), Thierleinbaum ( Zweibrücken ), Thierliebaum, Tierlibaum ( Switzerland ), Tirlen, Tirlitzenbaum (Swabia), Zierleinstrauch and Zisserlein.


The emphasis on the name Cornelian cherry also creates difficulties. In the literature, the emphasis, insofar as it is given at all, is predominantly on the second syllable, which is listed as long spoken. In contrast, the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm (5th volume, 1873) draws attention to the fact that Kornelbaum is apparently stressed partly on the first and partly on the second syllable. If one takes Zedler's Universal Lexicon from 1733 as a basis, everything speaks for an emphasis on the second syllable. There the keywords Corneel berry, Corneel cherry, Corneel cherry tree and Cornelius cherry, Cornelius cherry tree, Cornell cherry, Cornelle are listed, the spelling of which indicates that the second syllable was stressed at that time, albeit sometimes long and sometimes short.

The second syllable is also stressed in French cornouille and Spanish cornejo (both cornel cherry fruit). In the Italian córniolo , however, the stress is on the first syllable (although the third syllable is also allowed there); otherwise the gemstone carnelian ( corniólo ) is meant. The English word corneltree is also stressed on the first syllable. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, 1933 edition, cornel has been in use in England since the 16th century and has been translated in the various spellings from German (from cornel-baum ). This in turn indicates that the early German forms such as cornel-baum, churnelbere, quirnilberi were also stressed on the first syllable.

It is possible that Kornel derives from the Italian corniolo , which is usually stressed on the first syllable. The dialect Italian word crógnolo for cornel cherry also has the stress on the first syllable. In German, the second syllable seems to be stressed, but then usually spoken briefly.

In the Scandinavian languages ​​- Danish, Norwegian, Swedish - the second syllable is stressed and usually spoken briefly. The term Kornel is relatively common there. With Kornel (Danish) or kornell (Norwegian and Swedish) both the dogwood genus ( Cornus ) and the dogwood family (Cornaceae) are referred to. The second syllable was always emphasized in the various forms and derivatives. This went so far that the first syllable was even partially omitted, as can be seen from names like Nelius, Nehl, Nelle, Nelissen . These forms also show that the short and long pronunciation coexist for the syllable nel .


In the system, the following representation of the relationships between the Cornelian cherries results:


 Cornus mas


 Cornus officinalis


 Cornus chinensis


 Cornus eydeana


 Cornus volkensii


 Cornus sessilis


Everything from the cornel cherry tree was used: blossoms, leaves, bark, but above all the wood and the fruits. Today, at least in Germany, its economic importance has declined sharply; The fruits still play a role in the production of fine fruit brandies .

In the standard work Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa by Gustav Hegi, published around 1920, it is stated that cherries are used either raw or candied or made into compote with sugar or vinegar. Jams, jellies and fruit juices could also be made from it. The fruit juices under the name Scherbet or Hoschaf are particularly popular in south-eastern Europe, especially with the Turks. The ripe fruits are also used as fishing bait. Cheap rosaries were made from the cherry stones. The seeds enclosed in the core could serve as a coffee substitute when roasted and would then have a vanilla-like odor. The cornels were previously used in Turkey to dye the fez , the traditional Turkish headgear, red.

According to Hegi, cornel cherries sometimes came onto the market en masse in favorable climates, for example in Munich in 1914 and 1918, whereby in 1918 the pound was paid at 60 pfennigs. They can still be found everywhere in the Balkans in autumn.

The very dense and hard wood of the cornel cherry tree, which is polishable and difficult to split, was mainly used in the turnery and wheeling shop for the production of tools, wheel spokes, cobblers' nails, knife handles, hammer handles, mathematical instruments and combs, also for gears in mills. Since it shrinks a lot, it requires careful drying.

Because of the great toughness of wood and its already mentioned hardness, it was often used in the past for the production of wooden hammers for sculpting, so-called mallets ; for that you need strong tribes. It was also used to produce charcoal. Bark, wood and leaves contain tannins that were used for dyeing. The bark, with its 7 to 16 percent wage content, is particularly suitable for tanning.

Evidence from prehistory and antiquity

Already in Italian pile dwellings of the Neolithic and Bronze Age , as well as in Austria, cornel pits have been found in whole layers. Apparently they were an important part of the diet at that time. In addition, the solid, elastic wood was used. This is particularly evident in the great myths of antiquity. According to the Greek writer Pausanias, the Trojan horse , by means of which Odysseus and his companions conquered Troy , was made of the wood of the cornel cherry. The legendary Ulysses bow, which only he was able to draw, is said to have been made of this wood. In the Odyssey of Homer the enchantress fed Kirke Odysseus companions who had turned into pigs, with Cornelian cherries, acorns and beechnuts. According to Homer, this was the usual diet of pigs at the time.

A gruesome story is told from the Trojan War: The ruler of Thrace had Polydorus , the youngest son of the King of Troy, killed. His warriors struck down the defenseless Polydoros with their spears, which, as was customary at the time, were made of the wood of the cornel cherry. But the shafts of the murder weapons took root and, nourished by the blood of the unburied youth, could even turn the dead wood of the spears green. A cornel cherry bush grew out of it. Later, Aeneas , who escaped the massacre of Troy with a few companions, first landed on the coast of Thrace while fleeing. There they first wanted to sacrifice to the gods. For the necessary firewood, a thicket of cornel cherries offered itself. But when they broke the first branches, blood oozed from them. As a further gruesome sign, they then heard a voice that revealed itself to be the spirit of Polydoros. This is exactly where the murder happened.

In ancient times , the wood of the cornel cherry acquired military technical and ultimately historical significance, when King Philip II established the phalanx as the new order of battle for the Macedonian infantry . Their up to six meter long lances ( sarissas ) could only be made from this special wood; the successful use of the phalanges against the Persian cavalry became an essential factor in enabling Philip's son, Alexander the great , to make his conquests possible.

Because of its strength and toughness, the wood of the cornel tree was suitable for the manufacture of spears and lances like no other. This use was so common among the ancient Greeks and Romans that various ancient poets no longer spoke of the lance in their metaphors, but of the cornel that the warrior hurled at the enemy. This is also the case with Ovid in his Metamorphoses from AD 2-8 . Instead of simply saying swung the lance , the very literal translation by Johann Heinrich Voss from 1798 says: "Swinged the weight of the cornel, which flashed with ore." Elsewhere he speaks of the cornel shaft in a somewhat more understandable way. In a more recent translation of the 12th book ( The Lapetes and Centaurs ) it can be read: “He drilled the unsteeled cornel straight into the face.” What is meant is a lance made of cornel cherry wood without a steel tip.

In Ovid's descriptions of the Golden Age ( Metamorphoses, VIII, 611), the better and more peaceful half of humanity feed on strawberries, blackberries and cornelles. When the gods Zeus and Hermes stop by the old married couple Philemon and Baucis , unrecognized , they put preserved Cornelian cherries in front of them.

The cornel was apparently so widespread in ancient times that it was also used in pig fattening. This is what Homer says in Canto 10 of the Odyssey in the scene in which the sorceress Kirke transforms some of Odysseus' companions into pigs:

Weeping they allowed themselves to be locked up,
and Kirke poured them acorns and beech mast and red cornels
, the usual fodder for the pigs that churned the earth.

According to Roman tradition, at the time of Emperor Caligula (37–41 AD) there was an ancient cornel cherry tree on the Palatine Hill. This is said to have had its origin in the fact that the legendary founding of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus in 753 BC BC Romulus thrust his lance into the ground as a boundary sign for the city. As was customary at the time, this was made from the wood of the Cornelian cherry. The lance should then have knocked out - as a sign of the successful foundation - and developed into the tree. Other Roman cities are said to have been founded in a similar way by the Roman augurs using a staff made of cornel cherry wood as a point of reference .

Use as a walking stick

The wood of the Cornelian cherry found great popularity in Germany thanks to a hiking stick, the so-called goat grocer . Because their wood is so solid, the farmers in the village of Ziegenhain, southeast of the university town of Jena , used the peeled branches to make particularly durable knot sticks. They were initially worn by students from Jena, then became very fashionable and became known throughout Germany around the end of the 19th century. There were also other, cheaper ones made from the less hard and much more common hawthorn. The stick worn by the students, called the Stenz at the time , had two uses: once as a walking and hiking stick, then as part of the student duels, which were frequent at the time, in the hands of the seconds. Some residents of Ziegenhain earned well from the production of Ziegenhain sticks, which began in 1789. According to a sales catalog for student utensils from the 1920s, a real Ziegenhainer cost 7.50 marks and a turned one 5 marks. At that time the Cornelian cherries were also specially planted in the area around Jena for making walking sticks. A more elaborate type of goat grove was the twisted stick, which was obtained by influencing the growth. A simpler variant was made on the lathe.

Use as a remedy

Illustration in JG Sturms Germany's flora in illustrations

Parts of the cornel (fruits, flowers, leaves and wood) have also made a name for themselves as a remedy for various ailments. The term Fructus Corni (fruits of the cornel cherry tree) for a drug can still be found in medicine today . Zedler's Universal Lexicon from 1733 devotes a long column to its healing properties. Among other things, the Cornell cherries cool afterwards, they "contract a little and stuff, work against red dysentery and blood speyes, give cooling refreshment in hot illnesses". The berries are used like olives, a "Cornell wine is made out of them, which is used against abdominal rivers". Dried and powdered fruits also help against this. The oil extracted from the wood eradicated the cancer. The berries are boiled in wine and dried to cure the kidney stone. The leaves stop the bleeding of wounds.

Because of their use against the red dysentery , the Cornelian cherries were also called Ruhrberries.

As early as the 12th century, Saint Hildegard von Bingen had dedicated a chapter to the healing power of the cornel cherry in Physika, her medical work, called Erlizbaum there. She recommended a bath made of bark, wood and leaves against gout and cherries for the stomach (3rd book, chapter 40, critical translation by Marie-Louise Portmann, 1991):

" From the cornel cherry (Dirlitze)

The cornel is warm and its warmth is mild and it has sweet moisture in it. So take some of its bark, wood, and leaves and boil them in water and make a bath out of them. And who suffers from gout, be it a child, a young person or an old one, bathe in it often and surround himself in these baths (with these leaves). And he does that in the summer when the tree is green, and it will help the child and the young person to be as healthy as possible. But it will be quite useful to the old, but not to the same extent as the child and the young. And so they will be better off. And the fruit of this tree does not harm people if you eat them, but it cleans and strengthens sick and healthy stomachs, it is good for people's health. "

Building on the medical works of Hildegard von Bingen, Hildegard medicine has developed today . In the book Hildegard Medizin Praxis published in 1990 by the naturopath Reinhard Schiller, the cornel cherries are listed with the comment: “Good for the healthy and the sick, clean the stomach and intestines”. For colitis, the inflammation of the large intestine, the book gives the following recipe:

“Eat raw, as jam, as jelly, as puree or in any other preparation. Cornelian cherries cleanse and strengthen the digestive tract. Colitis can be alleviated and even cured within a few months with the help of Cornelian cherries, an exclusive spelled diet and accompanying Hildegard therapy. "

The recipe for celiac disease (gluten intolerance) is:

“Eat a portion of Cornelian cherries every day, regardless of the form, whether raw or cooked, as jam, puree or jelly. Cornelian cherries cleanse and strengthen the ailing digestive system and promote its health. With a single consumption, however, one cannot expect miracles. They are a long-term therapeutic and should be used daily for months. "

In addition, the Cornelian cherry is recommended in the section on stomach ulcers as an additional treatment for stomach problems.

In the Hildegard von Bingen cookbook by Wighard Strehlow published in 1996 it says about the cornel cherry fruits:

“They contain the red fruit pigment anthocyanin , which belongs to the vitamin P group. This vitamin P is an important protective and repair factor in inflammation and injuries to the mucous membranes and blood vessels, for example in gastritis or varicose veins. "

The medicinal plant guide ( Guida alle piante medicinali ) by Paola Lanzara, published in Italy in 1978, mentions various beneficial effects of the cornel cherry (translation):

“The fruits retain a sour taste even when they ripen and contain glucose, malic and citric acids, mucilage and tannins. The fruits are used to make jams with a slightly sour taste and a constipating effect. If they are fermented, they provide alcoholic beverages with a pleasant taste.

In his description of the Golden Age, Ovid reports on people who also eat Cornelian cherries. The seeds are used to make an oil that is used to make soap. Roasted and mixed with coffee, they give it a pleasant vanilla scent, it is the famous Viennese coffee. The leaves can be used to make a pleasant infusion for drinking from the cup. Folk medicine recommends the fruits as a remedy for diarrhea. The bark (which contains a bitter substance, cornin, as well as substances containing tannin and pectin) gives an infusion of it a constipating and strengthening effect. "

Use for food and drinks

Semi-ripe cornel fruits

In Germany, at least in the southern half, the Cornelian cherry has always been used for food and drinks. In Baden, for example, there was a custom that on Lent Sunday the boys were entertained by their girls with the kitchen bouquet : thin branches of the cornel cherry that were dipped in batter and held in boiling fat for baking (Marzell, Kräuterbuch, 1922). From the beginning of the 19th century it is reported that the young leaves, dried in the shade, mixed with young sour cherry and wild strawberry leaves make a tasty tea.

Since the second half of the 20th century people have been thinking about the value of wild fruits and thus also of the cornels. They contain 8–9 percent sugar (mainly grape sugar and fructose ) and 2–3 percent free acids, especially malic acid . Because of their high vitamin C content (70–125 mg per 100 g fresh substance), they are especially used as vitamin donors.

There are now a number of new varieties with a lot of pulp. The Federal Office was in his descriptive list of varieties of wild fruit from 1999 a very positive view of the utilization possibilities of grain Ellen:

“Fully ripe fruits as raw food rich in vitamin C (even after the first frost exposure); Fruits suitable for deep freezing with processing in winter. Manufacture of dry products is possible in the sun or with artificial heat. Juices, sweet cider are very refreshing. Liqueurs, wines of excellent taste, as well as fruits pickled in alcohol, of excellent quality are syrups, jellies and jams. Jam can be made with low-acid fruits such as pear, apple, elderberry, plum, melon and pumpkin. Processed products are beautifully pink in color. "

In the original countries of origin in south-eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Turkey and West Asia, the cornel is widely used for drinks, but also a lot for food. Both for the production of spirits and for lemonades or as juice. In food, both fresh and dried fruits are used not only for jam, but also for sweet and salty soups, main dishes such as lamb and rice dishes and for desserts such as compotes or pastries.

Cornelian cherry water

The highest economic value obtained by the preparation of the Cornel Kornelkirsch (s) water with the aid of the internal bladder . Some of these fruit waters go under the dialect name Zisserle. However, they have not yet been of major importance in Germany. In contrast, the production of wine and liqueur from cornel cherries has long been common in Eastern Europe. It is believed that pain-relieving, intoxicating drinks were made from fermented cornel cherries in the Stone Age pile dwellings in Central Europe. More detailed instructions for the production of Cornelian cherry water were published in 1998.

In Austria, the tradition of making spirits from Cornelian cherries has never been broken. They have always been among the best among the fruit brandies there and are usually offered under the name Dirndl brandy . The prices for these products are correspondingly high because of the high workload due to the small fruitiness and the low alcohol yield.

Horticultural propagation

Cornelian cherry seedling

For the propagation of the Cornelian cherry three possibilities are given in the various garden books:

  1. By lowering , ie low-growing branches are pulled through a hook on the ground until roots are formed and grown and can then be separated.
  2. By cuttings of still soft wood, which are cut in midsummer and then placed in potting soil.
  3. By seeds sown in autumn.

The seed needs at least one, usually two winters to germinate . Instead, it can be stratified warm for two to five months , followed by three months in the refrigerator, and then germinated in moist peat in a plastic bag.

Fruit varieties are often hybrids and are refined by inoculation or copulation on wild growth bases.

The Cornelian cherry grows slowly and only bears fruit at the age of 8-10 years.

Regional importance

In the Lower Austrian Pielach Valley, the dirndl has been an important mainstay in the agricultural sector for generations. Records speak of the time of Maria Theresa . Was once mainly the hard wood of shrubs Dirndl important, jam, juice and is now above all Dirndlbrand made. In 2004 over 8,000 dirndl bushes were counted in the region.

The Dirndl are also eponymous for the Pielachtaler Dirndl region and for the tourist marketing of the Pielachtal as Dirndl Valley .


  • Dietmar Aichele, Heinz-Werner Schwegler: The flowering plants of Central Europe, Vol. 1, 1994
  • W. Bartels, A. Kottmann, R. Lucke: Production of cornel cherry water, magazine Die Kleinbrennerei No. 7/1998
  • Hildegard von Bingen: Physica, 1150–1158, text-critical translation by Marie-Louise Portmann, 1991, ed. from the Basel Hildegard Society
  • Gabrielle Corsi: Piante Selvatiche di uso alimentare in Toscana. Italy 1979
  • Rose Marie Dähncke: Dähnckes berry compass. Determine table berries and poison berries safely. Gräfe and Unzer, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7742-1625-8 .
  • F.-H. Diekmann, W. Spethmann: Monograph of the genus Cornus. Hausmann, 1997
  • Gerhard Friedrich , Herbert Petzold : types of fruit. 300 types of fruit in words and pictures. Neumann, Radebeul 1993, ISBN 3-7402-0134-7 .
  • Helmut Genaust: Etymological dictionary of botanical plant names. 3rd, completely revised and expanded edition. Birkhäuser, Basel / Boston / Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-7643-2390-6 .
  • H. Haeupler, Peter Schönfelder (ed.): Atlas of the fern and flowering plants of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1988
  • Ernst Hallier: Flora of Germany, 1886, 26th vol.
  • Gustav Hegi : Illustrated Flora of Central Europe, Vol. V, Part 2, Page 1548–1553. Munich 1926.
  • John Hillier (Ed.): The Hillier Book of Garden Planning and Planting, Great Britain 1988
  • Gerd Krüssmann: Handbook of the deciduous trees, 1976
  • Paola Lanzara: Guida alle piante medicinali (medicinal plants guide ), Italy 1978
  • William Löbe: Counselor for practical life, Berlin around 1904
  • Heinrich Marzell: Dictionary of German Plant Names, Leipzig 1943
  • Heinrich Marzell: The New Illustrated Herb Book, Reutlingen 1922
  • Cornus L. . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 4, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, p. 283.
  • Reinhard Schiller: Hildegard medicine practice - recipes for a healthy life - remedies in harmony with the environment, preservation of the original life force, Pattloch, Augsburg 1990, ISBN 3-629-00019-3 .
  • Wighard Strehlow: Hildegard von Bingen cookbook, 1996
  • Universal = dictionary of culinary arts. 3. Edition. Leipzig 1886.
  • Walther Wangerin: About the Cornaceae family, 1910, in Das Pflanzenreich, Ed. Adolf Engler
  • Warburg: Plant World , 1926. 3rd vol.
  • Reinhard Witt: Wild shrubs in nature and garden, 1989, Kosmos nature guide
  • Cornus, cornel tree, cornel cherry tree. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 6, Leipzig 1733, column 1324-1326.

Web links

Commons : Cornelian cherry ( Cornus mas )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Cornelian cherry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b BdB-Handbuch VIII: Wildhöölze. Verlag Grün ist Leben, 2000, p. 36.
  2. a b Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas . With the collaboration of Angelika Schwabe and Theo Müller. 8th, heavily revised and expanded edition. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 , pp.  725 .
  3. a b W. Bartels, A. Kottmann, R. Lucke: Production of Cornelian cherry water, magazine Die Kleinbrennerei No. 7/1998.
  4. Walther Wangerin: About the family of the Cornaceae. In: Das Pflanzenreich, 1910, Ed. A. Engler.
  5. Cornus, Cornel-Baum, Cornel-Kirschen-Baum. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 6, Leipzig 1733, column 1324-1326., Here col. 1324.
  6. Sigrid-Dirndl ( Memento from April 13, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  7. 1996, 3rd revised. Ed.
  8. Cornus, Cornel-Baum, Cornel-Kirschen-Baum. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 6, Leipzig 1733, column 1324-1326.
  9. ^ Georg August Pritzel , Carl Jessen : The German folk names of plants. New contribution to the German linguistic treasure. Philipp Cohen, Hanover 1882, p. 111 f. ( online ).
  10. Qiu-Yun (Jenny) Xiang, Steve R. Manchester, David T. Thomas, Wenheng Zhang: Phylogeny, Biogeography, and Molecular Dating of Cornelian Cherries (Cornus, Cornaceae). Tracking Tertiary Plant Migration . In: evolution . tape 59 , no. 8 . Hoboken NJ 2005, p. 1685-1700 . ISSN 0014-3820  
  11. ^ Warburg: Plant World. 1926.
  12. Homer, Odyssey X, 242.
  13. ibid. X, 243.
  14. ^ Translation by Johann Heinrich Voss from 1781.
  15. Mac Cárthaig, Spethmann: Krüssmanns wood multiplication. Parey, 2000, p. 243.
  16. Pflanzen/hartriegel/kornelkirsche-cornus-mas Kornelkirsche in My beautiful garden , online publication by Burda Senator Verlag GmbH
  17. Pielachtaler Dirndl . Entry No. 90 in the register of traditional foods of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism .
    Pielachtaler Dirndl at the Genuss Region Österreich association .