The Versatile Viburnum Family

The Versatile Viburnum Family

The viburnums (Viburnum sp.) are a large and versatile family of over 150 ornamental shrubs, including both native and introduced species. Like their fellow understory shrubs, the dogwoods, viburnums provide exceptional four season beauty. They produce prolific and often fragrant white or pink blossoms in spring, attractive foliage and form in summer, beautiful fall color, and bright berries that linger into winter, adding a splash of color to the winter landscape and providing food for many birds and other wildlife species.

Because there are so many viburnum species, it is possible to find one to suit almost any garden. Different species range from 2 to 30 feet tall. There is a viburnum for every level of sun, from full sun to deep shade, and every level of moisture, from dry to wet. Some species are evergreen, some deciduous.

Though several of the most popular ornamental viburnums, including the fragrant Korean Spicebush Viburnum (V. carlesii) and the spectacular Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum tomentosum), are natives of Eurasia, there are many native species to choose from. Some of the most popular include the Arrowwood Viburnum (V. dentatum), a large and  extremely versatile shrub that is a larval host plant for several butterfly and moth species and produces deep blue berries popular with birds, Mapleleaf Viburnum (V. acerifolium), a handsome shrub that does well in dry shade, and the outstanding American Cranberrybush Viburnum, or Highbush Cranberry,  (V. trilobum), a moisture loving species with showy and edible berries and prolific white blooms. The American cranberrybush is also known as V. opulus var. americanum, to distinguish it from the European Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. opulus var. opulus).

Other excellent native viburnums include:

  • Squashberry (Viburnum edule)
  • Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides)
  • Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
  • Possumhaw (Viburnum nudum)
  • Small-leaf Arrowood (Viburnum obovatum)
  • Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium)
  • Downy Arrowwood (Viburnum rafinesquianum)
  • Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum recognitum)
  • Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum)
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