Content Detail

Nannyberry is grown as a large shrub or a small tree reaching 15 to 20 feet high. Known for its dark, lustrous green leaves which turn maroon-red in the fall. This Midwest native is typically found in woodlands and wood edges, a great plant for naturalizing.

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 Tree, 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), Small tree (15-25 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
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Arching, Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and form:

Nannyberry can grow 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide. It is a small tree to multi-stemmed shrub with slightly arching branches and a suckering habit.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is found in wet to poorly drained sites, bogs, prairie habitats, and along wood edges anywhere from New Brunswick south to Georgia and west to Manitoba and Colorado. C-Value: 5.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Birds are attracted to the fruit that ripens in the fall and often persists into December. This shrub is a caterpillar and larva host to the spring azure butterfly.

Bark color and texture:

Nannyberry bark is dark, brownish-black with a blocky appearance.

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

It has opposite, long, oval-shaped leaves with slightly toothed, wavy edges and a winged leafstalk. The glossy dark green leaves have a lighter underside and change to reddish-purple fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The small, creamy white flowers are in 4 1/4 inch, flat-topped to slightly domed clusters. They don’t have any fragrance.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

This shrub produces berry-like fruit (drupes), starting out yellow and red and maturing to blue or black.

Plant care:

This shrub is very adaptable growing in full sun to shade and in dry to moist, wet sites. Since it flowers on old wood, prune soon after flowering to maintain size and shape. It has a moderate degree of salt tolerance.

List of pests and diseases:

It can get the viburnum crown borer.


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