Content Detail

Black-haw viburnum is a large, native shrub or a small tree. In spring, new leaves emerge copper-colored followed by white, flat-topped flowers. In fall, black fruits contrast with the pinkish-red foliage. A great plant for naturalized areas.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Elderberry
  • Family (botanic) Adoxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate, Slow

Size & Form:

Black-haw viburnums grow 12 to 15 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide. It is a large, suckering shrub or single-trunked tree.

Native geographic location and habitat:

As a Chicago native, it is most commonly found in woods and forest edges. It is tolerant of roadside edges and stream banks. C-Value: 5

Attracts birds & butterflies:

Black-haw viburnum provides food and shelter to many bird species.

Bark color and texture:

The mature bark is brownish and broken into a blocky pattern, whereas, young stems are slender and straight with a pinkish bloom on reddish stems. The leaf scar is v-shaped and slightly raised.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Opposite leaves are typically up to 3 or 4 inches long. The leaf is narrow to oval with serrated edges and a pointed tip. The smooth surface of a leaf is a medium green color with a lighter underside. Leaves will turn reddish-purple in fall. There are two types of terminal buds during winter months. 

Black-haw viburnum is often confused with Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago). Black-haw viburnums petioles are reddish and are not winged like Nannyberry. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Small, creamy white, slightly fragrant flowers bloom in flat-topped to slightly domed clusters. The flower buds in winter are larger than the leaf buds, bulbous and pinkish at the ends of stems.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Black-haw viburnum has berry-like fruits (drupes) that turn a dark blue or black in the fall.

Tree & Plant Care:

It is adaptable to most sites including wet or dry areas in the sun or shade. The black-haw viburnum can form thickets. Since it flowers on old wood, it should be pruned after flowering.

List of pests and diseases:

There aren’t any known serious problems. The plant is tolerant of black walnut toxicity and aerial salt spray

According to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research, this plant is a cultivar of a species that is native. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Guardian™ black-haw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium ‘Guazam’):

It has an upright habit that grows 10 to 12 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. The dark green foliage turns crimson-red in late fall.

Forest Rouge™ black-haw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium ‘McKrouge’):

This cultivar is an oval to upright small tree or large shrub reaching 8 to 10 feet high. It has outstanding maroon fall color

Summer Magic black-haw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium ‘Summer Magic’):

It has an upright habit reaching 8 to 10 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. New growth emerges reddish-pink. The leathery leaves turn yellow to red in fall.


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