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What are Viburnums?

Updated: Feb 13, 2024

A Viburnum is a shrub of the genus Viburnum, a widely cultivated and much distributed shrub or tree of the honeysuckle family with white or sometimes pink flowers. Gardeners find them useful for their versatility and hardiness, the excellence of their flowers and foliage, and their ability to grow in a number of soils in and out of the sun. However, the ideal conditions in which to cultivate the Viburnum is in a loamy and heavy soil with plenty of light. It prefers acid, neutral and basic soil types and the soil must be moist. The Viburnum was once included in the family known as Caprifoliaceae, but are today classified as members of the Adoxaceae family.

Native to the Northern Hemisphere, the Viburnum also prospers in the mountainous regions of Africa (especially the Atlas mountains of Libya), south-east Asia and South America. When they are found in hot or temperate regions the Viburnum usually remains green all year round. However, in cooler temperatures they are deciduous. They possess simple leaves while their flowers are small pink or cream colored and pentamerous in their petal arrangement. These flowers are formed in what is termed a corymb, the branching apparatus of long-stemmed plants, with sterile flowers on the cusp of the corymb to as act as a lure for pollinators.

The fruit of the Viburnum is a spherical drupe that contains a seed on the inside and has an outer skin that is typically of a purple or reddish color or otherwise black. Though birds and animals eat freely of the Viburnum’s fruit, some species are known to be mildly poisonous to humans. These include the fruit from the V. opulus species, which have a toxic effect when ingested by a human being and can cause vomiting.

The V. lentago, also known as the Nannyberry, Sheepberry or Sweet Viburnum is an edible variety of the fruit and is commonly used in jam making. This edible variety is in flower from May to June, with the seeds ripening between the months of September and October. It is native to the north-eastern and mid-western United States and also found in some parts of Canada. The Viburnum’s bark has also been known to be an effective alternative herbal remedy for sufferers of asthma.

The full scientific classification of the Viburnum is: Kingdom: Plantae, Phylum: Magnoliophyta, Class: Magnoliopsida, Order: Dipsacales, Family: Adoxaceae, Genus: Viburnum.

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