Viburnums are now in bloom

Several species of native viburnum are displaying their white flowers now. These versatile shrubs or small trees will also produce berries later in the year that birds devour.

Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) grows in an upright form to 10-15 feet and can be used as a hedge. It prefers slightly acidic soil in sun or shade. (As with many plants, the bloom production is greater with some sunlight.) Its name comes from the straight branches.

Witherod (Viburnum nudum) is a fuller shrub, growing 6-12 feet. The cultivar “Winterthur” is more compact than the species and is often available in nurseries. The berries turn from pink to blue black. It grows in sun or part shade.

Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) is a small understory tree that prefers deep, rich, somewhat moist soils but is not fussy about pH. The haw has a simple leaf that looks a lot like the cherry leaf, which is why it was given prunifolium as a species designation. The fruit of the haw ripens to a deep bluish-black color after the first hard frost; it is devoured by birds in when it becomes edible. The black haw gets its common name for the color of its fruit “black” and the fact that it looks like a hawthorn “haw”. Black haws are gaining some popularity as native landscape plants for their attractive flowers, beautiful fall colors, and bird-friendly berries.

Black haw plant and flower

Credit: - David Barrow

Credit: - David Barrow

Another more upright plant, nannyberry viburnum (Viburnum lentago), can be trained as a small tree or left to sucker and naturalize. All of these viburnum will accept dry, medium or moist conditions.

Cranberry viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) is a fast growing shrub hardy in zones 2-7; this species requires more even moisture than some of the other viburnums. Its red berries persist into the winter. The maple-like leaves have good fall color. It is more susceptible to borer than the other viburnum species, so if you use it as a landscape plant, keep an eye on the base of the plant and treat if you see sawdust-like particles.

All of these viburnum are worth considering, depending on your landscape needs.

They are less site-demanding than dogwood and have multi season interest.

Article by Ginny Brace, FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 5/18/2014