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This adaptable, shade-tolerant shrub is an all-season favorite due to its abundant flowers, fall color, and edible, deep-blue fruits that persist through winter. It’s an important food source for wildlife and is especially useful as an attractive hedge or windbreak. It typically grows 15-20 feet tall and wide, and its suckering roots often form colonies that provide privacy for homeowners and shelter for wildlife. In late spring, round-topped clusters of white flowers with long, fluffy stamens give way to bunches of fleshy fruits that are eaten in winter by many birds and mammals (the shrub is also known as sweet viburnum). In the fall, the plant’s lustrous, dark green leaves change to hues of orange and purplish red. Nannyberry viburnum is commonly found in moister areas with loamy soils, but it will adapt to a wide variety of sites. It usually grows larger in full sun or dappled shade, while part or full shade leads to less growth, fewer flowers, and occasional mildew. The upright-growing shrub has leggy, arching branches (lentago means “flexible”) that form an irregular to rounded crown. While it makes an excellent hedge or addition to borders, it may also be pruned into a small, short-trunked tree; however, to retain the tree form, the gardener will need to continue to trim back the suckering roots. Because it’s mildly resistant to deer browse, nannyberry is a good choice for landscapes populated by deer. Viburnums have one major pest: pyrrhalta viburni, the viburnum leaf beetle (VLB). These European insects can eventually defoliate an entire plant. Fortunately, nannyberry is one of the viburnums that carries some resistance to the beetle. 

 

Native habitats include forest openings, hillsides, swamps, wet meadows and fens, lake shores and river banks. Beautiful in shrub borders, woodlands, naturalized areas and pollinator gardens.

 

Plant Characteristics:  

Grows 15-20’ tall and wide.

 

Grows in full or part sun. Tolerates shade with fewer flowers and fruit and occasional mildew.

 

Prefers average or moist soils but adapts to dry soils.

 

Dense, rounded flower clusters 2-3 ½” across grow at tips of year-old branches from May-June. Each bell-shaped flower is ¼” wide with 5 rounded lobes, a single style, and 5 long, yellow-tipped stamens that extend far beyond the floral tube. Light green, pale yellow, or reddish-pink drupes are slightly flattened, elliptical, and 1/3 to ½ inch long. Each contain a single seed.

 

Simple, opposite leaves are oval and 2-4” long with an abrupt taper, pointed tip, and sharp-toothed margins. Leafstalk is flattened with irregular wings. 

 

Multiple main stems arise from the base. Trunk bark is gray to reddish-brown with thin, square plates. Older bark becomes dark gray with deeply checkered furrows. Branch bark is gray and smooth except for raised lenticels. 

 

Wildlife Value:  

Viburnums are a host plant for 101 species of Lepidoptera, including the Promethea silkmoth, Isabella tiger moth (both pictured here), and specialists brown scoopwing and Orthofidonia tinctaria moths. A host of butterflies visit for nectar, and both nectar and pollen attract honey bees, sweat bees, mining bees, and various flies and beetles. The fruits are eaten by many species of birds and wildlife, including ruffed grouse, brown thrashers, cedar waxwings, thrushes, bobwhites, flickers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, woodpeckers, and several finches. Deer, rabbit, chipmunks, beavers, and foxes consume various parts of the plant.

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:  

The bark and leaves have traditionally been used to treat malaria, measles, painful urination, and spasms. The roots have been used to treat irregular menstruation. 

 

The fruits may be eaten off the bush when ripe, dried for snacks, or used to make teas, smoothies, desserts, purees, jams, fruit butter, and fruit leather. Nannyberry is also known as sheepberry because the overripe fruits smell like wet sheep wool. 

Viburnum, Nannyberry, Viburnum lentago

$7.50Price
Excluding Sales Tax
Ready for Pickup Summer/Fall
  • This plant will be offered as bare root in spring and later in the season as a potted shrub

  • For summer planting, water deeply 1-2 times weekly 

     

    For fall planting, water every 1-2 weeks; water more often during prolonged hot, dry spells

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