Mapleleaf viburnum, aka possum haw, is a deciduous, medium-sized shrub with foliage that resembles red maple leaves. Tolerating many soil types, this viburnum brightens shadier areas with its masses of white flower clusters in June, followed by small, red berries that ripen to blueish-black in late summer. Berries are a favorite food for a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. Leaves are green with small black spots on the undersides, and turn pale yellow, red, pink, purple, or magenta in fall.
Native habitat includes hillsides, forests, ravines, edges of lakes, and riverbanks. Suitable for containers, naturalized plantings, borders, and hedges. Tolerates proximity to black walnut.
Grows 4-6’ tall and 3-4’ wide.
Prefers part to full shade.
Best growth in moist loam, but tolerates clay, sand, or rocky soils. Needs consistent moisture during early growth, but drought tolerant once established.
Bark is dark gray and smooth, becoming rougher with age. Prune as needed after flowering. To avoid formation of large colonies, thin out the suckers each year – great for sharing!
Viburnums are a larval host for 101 species of lepidoptera, including two of the three day-flying clearwing moths native to Ohio: hummingbird and snowberry clearwings, as well as two specialist moths that feed only on the leaves of viburnum in their larval stage: Orthofidonia tinctaria and brown scoopwing. Spring azure butterflies lay eggs on the flower buds, which are eaten by the emerging caterpillars. Native bees, flies, wasps, skippers, and beetles visit for nectar and pollen. The fruits attract sparrows, cardinals, hermit thrushes (rare in Ohio), chipmunks, squirrels, wild turkeys, and ring-necked pheasants. Deer, skunks, and rabbits browse the bark and foliage.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Native Americans and early settlers used viburnum to treat various maladies, including smallpox and malaria. A poultice of leaves was used for pain. A tea made of the inner bark was used for treating colic and cramps, while the root bark was used as a diaphoretic and tonic.
The berries may be suitable for jam.
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