DESCRIPTION OF CORNELIAN CHERRY
National Agricultural Research Foundation - Pomology Institute (NAGEF-PI)
Naoussa - Greece
BOTANICAL SPECIES: Cornus mas L.
HABITAT. Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas L.) is the most important from the 40 species of the family Cornaceae. These species grow in Temperate Zone, except one, which is native in Peru. Cornelian cherry grows on calcareous, well-drained forest soils and has good adaptability in fact of soil fertility. It can be grown under the shade of tall trees. It was well known since Homer period with the name krania (Ilias, cited by Kavadas,1956).
GENETIC VARIABILITY. Cornelian cherry is considered as a species with medium genetic variability, which now is not subjected to high risks of genetic erosion. Cultivated varieties do not exist, but few selected wild seedlings or clonally propagated are cultivated in yards, fences of farms or as ornamentals in gardens. Very important genotypes of Cornelian cherry have been found in different provinces of Greece. Some of them are very productive, others with red or yellow fruits, others with big fruits but self-sterile e.t.c. They have been found in forest vineyards, fences, on altitude 100-1200 meters. Nurserymen sometimes sell local selections (in small scale) with name derived from location (Cornus of Gournosovo) or the size of the fruit (Giant Cornus) or the time of ripening (Late Cornus).
PLANT. Cornelian cherry is a deciduous tree or shrub, the height reaching 3-6 m, with brilliant leaves and greenish or grayish branches. Seeds, cuttings and sprouts propagate it.
LEAVES. Leaves are alternate, simple, and green to gray in colour, oval, acute with very short petiole and lanceolate or elongate oblong lamina. It is green in the upper surface, grayish and pubescent beneath, margin entire acute at the edge.
FLOWERS. Cornelian cherry produces sunbonnet with 10-20 pubescent radius. Flowers appear early in season (February) and it makes easy to localize the plants at this period. Flowers are tetramerous hermaphrodite with four yellow petals, which are small in size, sword shaped and bending toward the petiole. There are also four stamens and one or two inferior ovaries with two carpels, originating generally only one seed. There are four sepals at the base of sunbonnet. Cornelian cherry is self-fertile and self-pollinated, but self-sterile genotype with big fruits, have been found. Self-pollination is facilitated by the position that stigmas and anthers posses on the same flower.
FRUIT. The fruit is olive shaped 1-2 cm long, sweet sour in taste. It is originated from the inferior ovary with one seed. The colour of the fruit is generally red (but also yellow fruits have been found. During August-September and when overmature are edible. The size of fruits ranges from 1-6 g.
USE. The most common use of Cornelian cherry fruits, is to produce different drinks, sweets and as edible. Its uses were very well known many years ago. Homer refers (Odyssey K. 242 cited by Kavadas 1956) that cornelian cherry fruits were given as food for pigs. Theofrastus refers the Cornelian cherry fruit as kranion (Plant history 3, 3,1 and 4,4,5). The fruits are also used for preparation of gels, jams and in cookery. Cornelian cherry was an important medicinal plant in old years. The astringency of the fruits is well known since antiquity. The use of edible fruit is used against diarrhea enteritis, not completely ignored by the medicine. Bark, shoots, and roots were used against fever with relative action as Kichone Wood or bark extracts can cure dog itch. The fine hard wood can be used to obtain different articles of turnery. As ornamental Cornelian cherry (with brilliant leaves and abundant flowers) can be employed with very interesting effect in parks and small gardens.