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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Viburnum lentago L.

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Common Name:



Nannyberry is a native shrub common throughout Wisconsin in upland and lowland fields, woods and along streambanks.  It grows in fine to medium textured mineral soils, from wet to dry, and in full sun to partial shade.  In woodlands itís most common at an edge, in the interior of a young or disturbed woodland, or where gaps in the canopy allow more light. Plants sprout from the base and form slow-growing but eventually large clones in full sun.

Like many clonal shrubs nannyberry has two types of roots -- scattered deep roots that anchor the plant and an extensively branched shallow root system that binds soil.  The shallow root system and low spreading branches make nannyberry, like willows and dogwoods, a good plant for streambank restorations.

Nannyberry is also a common landscape shrub for its showy flowers, bright fall color, fruit that attracts songbirds and because itís unpalatable to deer.

Nannyberry is easily recognized throughout the winter by its opposite branching and long, pointed, brown buds with two scales covering next yearís growth. Buds that are swollen at the base hold next springís flowers.  Small or long narrow buds hold the leaves.

Nannyberry blooms in late spring.  Many small white flowers are in a cyme or cluster 5 to 10 cm across and on red stalks or petioles.  As in all the Viburnums, each corolla has 5 lobes and 5 stamens  project well beyond the corolla tube.

The fruit is ellipsoid and flattened, pale green at first, turning blue-black with a whitish bloom when ripe.  The pulp is sweet and covers a hard pit with a single flat seed.

Nannyberry leaves are simple, 5 to 8 cm long, and oppositely arranged. Leaf shape varies but most have a sharply pointed tip about 1 cm long. Each leaf is sharply toothed with 6 to 10 incurved teeth per cm. The veins are pinnate and branch repeatedly so they appear to end before they reach the leaf margin.  The petiole, or leaf stalk, is winged often with a wavy edge. 

  • Origin of the name: Viburnum, Latin name for the wayfaring tree, V. lantana; lentago, L. lens, bi-convex or lentil shaped, referring to the fruit (?)
  • Range:  Eastern N. Amer. s. to VA, w. to CO, Sask.
  • WI Range:  Statewide
  • Common associates: Gray dogwood, American elm, Jack-in-the-pulpit
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FAC+
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 5 (S&W), C = 4 (MI)
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