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Viburnums - North American Native Plants


Viburnum Fruits

Viburnum Fruits

Marie Iannotti

Viburnums native to North America don’t possess the intense, spicy fragrance of their Asian cousins. However they do offer a fabulous fall display and abundant fruit clusters, popular with birds and wildlife. Most are tough enough for hostile urban environments and many are xeric or drought tolerant. As with all viburnums, they are bothered by few pest problems and possess good disease resistance. The only pruning required is for removing dead wood and to shape or maintain size.

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) Zones 3-8, 10' H x 10'W

  • Very adaptable - Native to eastern N.A..
  • Grows wild in woodlands, bogs, and along stream banks.
  • Likes full sun to partial shade
  • Not particular about soil.
  • Fast growing and will sucker. Can be naturalized and is well suited to moist areas.
  • Creamy white spring blossoms
  • Foliage is a coarsely toothed, pale green, changing to yellow, red or reddish-purple in the fall.
  • The foliage is a larval food for several moths and the beautiful spring azure butterfly
  • Its fruit is eaten by several species of birds, including: bluebirds, cardinals, mockingbirds and robins and many use the shrubs for nesting and protection.

V. dentatum 'Morton' has a rounded, upright habit and deep burgundy fall foliage in fall.
V. dentatum 'Blue Muffin' named for its intense blue fruits, is more compact (3-5' tall), and makes a great hedge. It’s also a good choice for containers or in foundation plantings.
V. dentatum ‘Synnestvedt’ Emerald LusterTM has lustrous dark, green foliage.

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) Zones 2-8, 12' H x 10' W

  • Prefers moist shade, but will weather sun and dry soil.
  • Lacecap type flowers in creamy white bloom in mid- to late May
  • Fruits pass from green to yellow to pink and finally deep blue.

Swamp-haw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum) Zones 5-9, 12' H x 6' W

  • Grows wild from Long Island to Florida. Does equally well when cultivated.
  • Full sun to partial shade.
  • White flowers in late June, followed by clusters of round drupes that start out green and pass through shades of white and pink to finish a midnight blue.
  • The shrub is particularly attractive when it has fruits in various transitional colors
  • Foliage turns reddish-purple in the fall.

V. nudum ‘Winterthur’ has even brighter red coloring and more profuse fruit clusters.
V. nudum ‘Wintertur’ is self-sterile and needs to be planted with a different cultivar, such as the straight species V. nudum, to cross pollinate and produce fruit.

Hobble Bush (Viburnum lantanoides), formerly known as Viburnum alnifolium Zones 4-7, 8' H x 12' W

  • Native to northeastern to mid-Atlantic North America
  • Tends to grow a bit disorderly and is probably best suited to a naturalized setting.
  • Branches will take root wherever they touch soil.
  • It is an understory plant that likes moist, shady woodlands
  • Flat umbels of white flowers in May, followed by red fruit clusters that age to the typical blue-black.
  • Leaves are large and fuzzy.
  • One of the earliest viburnums to develop their fall colors of reddish golds.

Native Tree Form Viburnums

Maple-leafed Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) Zones 4-8, 3-6' H x 4' W

  • Populates woodlands from New Brunswick to North Carolina.
  • Not an aggressive grower and would be fine in a border planting.
  • Canopy is open and casts only dappled shade.
  • Can tolerate dry shade.
  • Flat umbels of creamy white flower in late May, followed by almost black fruits.
  • Turns an unusual pink in the fall.
  • It is a larval food source for the spring azure butterfly as well as a nectar source for the golden-banded skipper.
  • Hosts of song and game birds grapple for the fruits

American Cranberry Bush (Viburnum trilobum or Viburnum opulus var. americanum) Zones 3-9 15' H x 12' W

  • Bright red fruits that look a lot like cranberries and persist well into the winter.
  • A favorite of many song and game birds
  • Although the fruits are not cranberries, they are edible and safe for humans and are sometimes used to make jelly.
  • Makes a good screen or hedge
  • Fall color is a rich burgundy.
  • Grows wild from New Brunswick through British Columbia and south to New York through Oregon
  • The species is not well suited to warmer zones below zone 7.

V. trilobum 'Phillips' is a a dwarf selection with flavorsome fruit
V. trilobum 'Redwing' has particularly nice wine colored fall foliage and the bonus of red-tinged spring foliage.
V. trilobum 'Compactum Alfredo' makes a nice low hedge

Black-haw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) Zones 3-9, 12' H x 8' W

  • Fine in shade or sun and tolerates dry conditions. Doesn’t like salt.
  • Makes a good substitute for crabapples.
  • Distinctive for its pebbled bark, the red stems of its leaves and the yellow stamens in its white flowers.
  • The dark blue fruits make a nice jelly, but they are usually devoured by birds or wildlife.
  • Fall foliage is red to purple.
Go back to learn about growing vibrunums and Asian and Evergreen Viburnums.

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