This woody plant is either a multistemmed shrub or single-trunk tree up
to 25' tall (usually the former, rather than the latter). The crown
consists of ascending branches that have a tendency to arch, while the
trunk (if present) is up to 8" across. Bark of the trunk or older lower
branches is rough, somewhat scaly, and reddish gray to gray. Smaller
branches and twigs are gray, light brown, or light purple; they are
with scattered lenticels (air pores). Young shoots are light green,
terete, and glabrous. Pairs of opposite deciduous leaves occur along
the young shoots and twigs. These leaves are 2-4" long and 1-2" across;
they are ovate in shape and serrated along their margins. The leaf
bases are rounded to broadly wedge-shaped, while the leaf tips taper
abruptly, becoming long and slender. The upper leaf surface is
medium green, or dark green, while the lower leaf surface
is pale green; the upper surface is glabrous, while the lower surface
is glabrous to sparsely hairy. The petioles of the
leaves are ½–¾" long, light green (sometimes tinted red or yellow), and
glabrous to hairy. When hairs are present, they are rust-colored or
brown. The petioles are also narrowly and irregularly winged.
Panicles of flowers about 2-5" across occur at the tips of young
are slightly dome-shaped above and sessile. Each flower is about ¼"
across, consisting of a white corolla with 5 spreading lobes, a light
green calyx with 5 teeth, 5 exserted stamens, and a light green pistil
with a short style. The lobes of the corolla are oval-shaped, while the
teeth of the shallow calyx are triangular-shaped. The stamens have
white filaments and yellow anthers. During the blooming period, the
branches and pedicels of each panicle are light green, terete,
and glabrous (or nearly so); the pedicels of individual flowers are up
to ¼" long. The blooming period occurs during late spring for about 2
weeks; the flowers are fragrant. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced
by drupes that become mature during late summer or autumn. At this
time, the branches and pedicels of the inflorescence turn red.
Mature drupes are 6-10 mm. long, ovoid in shape, and dark blue-violet.
The fleshy interior of each drupe is somewhat juicy and sweet, tasting
like a raisin or date. Each drupe contains a single hard seed (or
stone) that is flattened-ovoid in shape and dark-colored. The woody
root system is shallow and spreading, often forming clonal offsets. The
deciduous leaves of this woody plant become orange, maroon, or dark red
during the autumn.
The preference is partial sun,
moist to mesic conditions, and fertile loamy soil. However, this woody
plant can adapt to other environmental conditions as it is easily
cultivated. It is winter-hardy to at least Zone 4.
The native Nannyberry is occasional in the
northern half of Illinois,
where it is native, while in the southern half of the state it is rare
or absent (see Distribution
). Illinois lies along the southern
range-limit of this species. Habitats include rocky woodlands, mesic
woodlands, low woodlands along streams, thickets, roadsides, and fence
rows. Because of its attractive flowers, fruit, and autumn foliage,
Nannyberry is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental shrub or small
tree. It is found in both higher-quality natural areas and disturbed
The nectar and pollen of the flowers
attract honeybees, Andrenid bees, Halictid bees (Sphecodes spp.
others), Syrphid flies, dance flies (Empididae), Muscid flies, and
miscellaneous beetles (Lovell, 1900; Discover Life, 2015). Other
insects feed destructively on the foliage, sap, and other parts of
Nannyberry. These insect feeders include Pyrrhalta viburni
Leaf Beetle), Lygidea
(Mirid plant bugs),
(Snowball Aphid), Enchenopa
(Two-marked Treehopper), and the larvae of such moths as Calledapteryx
(Brown Scoopwing), Metaxaglaea inulta
(Unsated Sallow), and
(Horrid Zale); see Clark et al. (2004), Knight (1941),
Hottes & Frison (1931), Covell (1984/2005), Wagner (2005), and
Discover Life (2015). The fruits of Nannyberry are eaten by many upland
gamebirds and songbirds, including the Ruffed Grouse, Northern
Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird,
American Robin, Hermit Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing,
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Purple Finch (DeGraaf, 2002). Birds that
use Viburnum spp.
as sites for their nests include the White-eyed
Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler, and Catbird. Some mammals also
use Viburnum spp.
as sources of food. They include such species as the
White-tailed Deer (twigs & foliage), Cottontail Rabbit (bark),
American Beaver (wood), Eastern Chipmunk (fruits), Fox Squirrel
(fruits), Gray Squirrel (fruits), Red Fox (fruits), and White-footed
Mouse (fruits); see Martin et al. (1951/1961).
Busey Woods in Urbana, Illinois.
This is one of the larger Viburnum
resembles Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum
), except its leaves
have more narrow tapering tips and its petioles are narrowly and
irregularly winged. There is also a tendency for the young shoots and
petioles of Blackhaw Viburnum to be more red and its leaves to be more
yellowish green during the late spring when the flowers of both species
are in bloom. The leaves of these two Viburnum spp.
serrated than the coarsely toothed leaves of Smooth Arrow-wood
and other arrow-wood species. In addition, the
flowers of both Nannyberry and Blackhaw Viburnum have a pleasant
fragrance and their drupes are sweet and edible. In contrast, the
flowers of Smooth Arrow-wood and other arrow-woods have an unpleasant
fragrance and their drupes have an unpleasant taste. Another common
name of Viburnum lentago
is Sweet Viburnum.