Simply The Best Natives-American Cranberry Viburnum


“The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world.”  ~Vita Sackville-West



A few years ago, I highlighted a wonderful Viburnum dentatum that grows in my garden.  In that post I mentioned another Viburnum I had planted, Viburnum opulus var. americana (formerly Viburnum trilobum).  And as this bush has grown in a bit more over the intervening years, I thought it high time I showed it to you.

gazing ballYou might know this native shrub (reflected in this gazing ball) by its more common names:  American Cranberry Viburnum, Highbush-cranberry and Cranberry viburnum.  American Cranberry Virburnum is also called American cranberry bush to distinguish it from the similar European cranberry bush, Viburnum opulus.  This shrub is now part of Adoxaceae—the elderberry family, but it was formerly of the Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family).

American Cranberry Viburnum have the same size and color of commercial cranberries, Vaccinium macrocarpon.  This bush is native to swampy woods, bogs, lake shores, pastures, thickets, slopes and moist low places from Newfoundland to British Columbia south to New York, the Great Lakes, South Dakota, Oregon and Washington.  

As I profile this wonderful native shrub, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for amandaher Wildflower Wednesday meme.  And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  Check out her wonderful 2015 Spring Catalog to see which natives Ellen is selling this year.




Growing Conditions

This deciduous shrub typically grows in a rounded shape reaching heights from 6-12’.  Mine is still only about 3 feet tall although it is beginning to spread up and out.  It prefers sun to part shade, loamy soils, as well as peat DSCN3800soil.  American Cranberry Viburnum thrives in poorly drained, moist to wet areas from zones 2-7.  My shrub is in the Bog Garden where there is lots of peat and it stays wet for long periods.  

The leaves of the American Cranberry Viburnum start as reddish and turn to green.  They are three-lobed and resemble a maple leaf, turning a gorgeous yellow to purplish-red in fall.  Lace-cap white flowers (shown above) self-fertilize and are pollinated by both wind and insects.  They bloom in spring, and are followed by cranberry-like berries (drupes) in fall.  Fruits tend to shrivel after frost, and stay on the plant through late winter.  The shrub will produce fruit after it has grown for 5 years.

The best time to prune the plant is right after flowering.  This shrub has few serious problems. Though it does have some susceptibility to leaf spot and powdery mildew.  It is said that the American and European varieties will hybridize if grown together.  And if you need to move the shrub, it is easy to transplant.  Good news for me, as I may have to move it when I redo the Bog Garden.

The shrub can be propagated by seeds found in the berries.




Benefits to Wildlife 

DSCN5844This shrub’s berries (just forming here) are a great source of winter food for birds and other wildlife such as game birds and small mammals.  The critters wait for the fruit to freeze and thaw  as it becomes less acidic and softer to eat. 

The flowers provide nectar for butterflies, native bees and other pollinators.  And the shrub is a larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly.

This plant also provides good nesting sites and cover for birds. 





DSCN3797This Viburnum is great to use as screening once it has grown in.  It can also be used in borders, along foundations and edges of woodlands.  And it looks great in winter with the red fruit against the snow.

The berries, high in Vitamin C, are edible right off the bush in late summer or fall.  They can be made into jams, jellies and sauces served with meat or game.  





Folklore and Tales 

DSCN3799Native American Tribes used this plant for gynecological problems, as a cold remedy, and for fevers, heart and kidney issues, and stomach cramps.

The bark of V. opulus has also been used as an ingredient to relieve cramps and stomach spasms for many years, and was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia

The fruit has been used for preserves since colonial times.






cranberry viburnum collage

Do you grow any native Viburnums?  Do you have a favorite Viburnum or berry-producing shrub?



Soon it will be time to celebrate the change of seasons.  I know it is hard to say goodbye to summer as autumn soon will begin.  And even though we may not like to see autumn come so soon, I hope you will join me in the celebration of this new season.  I welcome those Down Under who will be celebrating the coming of spring to join in too.  You can read the fall Seasonal Celebrations kick-off post on August 31st.

And as always, I will be collaborating with Beth@Plant Postings and her Lessons Learned meme at this same time.  What lessons have you learned this past season of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.  


Next up on the blog:  

Monday, it will be time for another Seasonal Celebrations post as Autumn slides in soon.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2015.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only. 

53 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-American Cranberry Viburnum”

  1. I think Viburnums are one of the most varied genus. I love them all, although I wouldn’t be able to grow your bog loving variety there are plenty of others to choose from that all suited to all kinds of different conditions. The 31st August does seem very early to be thinking about autumn; and although it isn’t quite as hot as a few weeks ago it is still perfect weather to go to the beach!

    1. Warm here again too Christina, but the leaves are shifting already. The garden is beginning to go over and change….I love the warm beginning to autumn and hopefully a longer summer so the veg garden can grow.

  2. We have this native shrub in the nursing home garden where I volunteer, and I agree it’s a beauty. I planted a non-native viburnum in my own garden several years ago, and it’s taken a long time to grow. I selected ‘Cardinal Candy’ because it was touted as producing lots and lots of berries, but this is the first year I’ve noticed any on it. I’m hoping it is finally going to live up to its reputation. I am ready for fall!

    1. I have noted viburnums can take a number of years to finally produce berries so I am glad yours is finally starting. I bet it will be lovely Rose.

  3. Oh Donna, I love this shrub. Mine grew so quickly and I think it exceeds 12′. It has been loaded with berries since mid summer. They are already red – they are so beautiful against the snow (not that I want to see that!) It is probably my most favorite shrub in the garden. It always looks good. I believe I purchased mine from White Oak Nursery here in NY. They carry a lot of natives, too. I love Amanda’s. I hope to visit there one day!

    1. My bush is buried by Joe Pye so the berries are hard to see right now which may keep them from the critters for a while. I agree it is a dazzling bush. I have purchased a few things from White Oak and actually should make a trip there in the future. We do have some wonderful native nurseries here in NY. Maybe one day we could take a trip together to Amanda’s or White Oak…

  4. For the first time Donna, I can open your blog and view all of your photographs as we have had a new broadband installed into our rural village. Its chilly here today and definitely a feel of Autumn already. There are so many beautiful Viburnhams, my neighbour grows a huge Viburnham opulus which hangs over into our garden, I really like it most when its aglow with Autumnal colour. But as for cooking the berries, I thought they were poisonous?

    1. Hooray you can read blogs with pictures again Julie. I am so glad that the new broadband was installed finally.

      The European berries are not poisonous if well cooked Julie…and the American berries are not poisonous at all although very tart like cranberries. European berries are not as tasty they say as the American ones…both are said to need sugar to make them more tasty and less tart. Which is why the birds let the American berries freeze and thaw before they eat them. Apparently this makes them sweeter.

  5. Oh dear, I do hate the thought of losing summer already. As Julie says, the weather does make us feel that autumn has arrived though.
    I wonder if your viburnum would grow for me. I’m looking down on the bog garden, aka neglected bit of swamp at the bottom of the garden, from my study window and thinking I really must do something with it!

    1. Jessica that area sounds like a special spot. And there are a number of lovely shrubs that like boggy, moist to wet areas. This is one.

  6. Donna, yes, I do grow this Viburnum in my garden. I often pick up the berries (if birds do not eat them). The berries have a bit bitter taste so I do jam with more sugar then usually.

  7. Thanks for the information–I’m not familiar with this Viburnum, but what a great plant it is. It has quite a wide range–I need to look for it here in Austin. The Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum, Viburnum rufidulum, is sold here in Austin, though still hard to find. Drool. I want one of these plants!

    1. Well if you have the habitat for it Tina, it is a fantastic bush to add to the garden. Any viburnum is worth adding to the garden! I did look up the Rusty Blackhaw and it is an impressive plant.

  8. I’m not a gardener but I always enjoy your photos.
    This is my first yr for container gardening and my daughter in law and I have had great luck with it….we will have a green house finished before much longer and looking forward to playing around in it..

    1. Oh that is wonderful to have a garden in containers, and a greenhouse is a dream of mine….you are lucky to have your container garden and greenhouse to play bj!

  9. I loved this post because I find Viburnums to be infinitely useful and beautiful in the garden. In my back area, near the forested part, I grow about six Viburnum “Blue pollinator”, I believe they are called. They have lovely blue berries that I love to put in winter arrangements. The birds are nuts about them. I also have some Viburnum Davidi, but I find these a little less interesting. Still, a great all around shrub! (Oh, I meant to say that mine are about 5′ tall, maybe a little more at the moment, and a big round shape. thanks for a great post Donna.

    1. I have one blue berry producing viburnum and it is always stripped by late August…I bet that grouping of viburnums is stunning Susan!

  10. Oh yes–we have several of these shrubs in our garden. At least two of them are volunteers. I love this shrub! It’s beautiful in all the seasons, and as you say provides plentiful berries for the birds during winter. Jason, over at Garden in a City, says the squirrels have eaten is berries, too. He also mentioned that there’s a new pest (virus? invading insect? I can’t remember–I’ll have to check back on his blog) that’s causing some problems for this shrub. I hope the interloper stays away from our gardens!

    1. Oh this would be a great volunteer to find, I agree Beth. Yes I remember reading about this insect….this Viburnum beetle will go after any and all beetles I believe…so sad we have so many invasive insects now. I have not found the squirrels eating my viburnum berries but I will have to look closely.

  11. I have several Viburnums but only one, ‘Blue Muffin’ that produces berries (at least so far). We don’t get much of a chance to enjoy the steely blue berries because the birds descend upon them as soon as they appear. The fall color is the feature I must enjoy.

    1. I agree rickii…the fall color is magnificent. I also have “blue Muffin’ that is stripped early even before the berries turn blue. And it also grows without needing another viburnum which is a wonderful feature.

  12. I love Viburnum. Although I don’t have any in my own garden, I did give 3 V. tinus to a friend as a house-warming present many years ago. They’re relatively drought tolerant so perhaps I should try it here as well. In my own garden, the primary berry-producing plants are Heteromeles arbutifolia (the official native plant of Los Angeles) and Nandina domestica.

    1. Both those shrubs produce loads of lovely berries…Kris, V. tinus sounds like a perfect shrub for your drier conditions. It looks like a beauty with blue berries.

  13. I was looking at this shrub to plant but I don’t think I have a place it would be happy , but it looks like a fantastic option for those who have a place for it like you do..Michelle

  14. thanks for the profile on your viburnum, I have seen a few viburnum hedges here in Adelaide they are a lovely looking plant.

  15. Now that’s a beauty Donna. I did not realise that the European viburnum opulus had an American cousin. I used to grow a viburnum tinus which was brilliant for late autumn/winter flowers but the plant was ravaged by viburnum beetles and is no more 🙁 I refuse to think of autumn yet as we’ve not really had any summer to speak of so far in north west England!

    1. I know what you mean about autumn Anna. I do love the fall season and plant to celebrate it once it comes. That is too bad about your viburnum. That beetle is now in the US ravaging our viburnums too!

  16. What a useful plant, the berries must taste pretty good because I never see them last long.
    I’ve only got a few flowering viburnums, I should correct that and add a few for fruit as well!

    1. I wanted to add more as well Frank. And I often thought they must taste pretty good…I love cranberries and they say these berries are very similar. Maybe this winter there may be one left for me to try.

    1. I agree it is a fabulous shrub Tammy…I wonder why yours needs another viburnum to produce berries? Well each habitat may be different….all in all it is a fabulous shrub. Can’t wait for mine to get huge too! 🙂

  17. I think I have a viburnum or two growing wild in my woods, but I have yet to plant one. I don’t think they were as popular a plant in southern gardens where I used to live, but I see them a lot up north. Very pretty, and such great plants for wildlife!

  18. How lucky to have viburnums growing wild Indie….yes great wildlife plants and I think the fall color and berries make them a cherished northern plant.

  19. I grow a viburnum that looks much like the American Cranberry viburnum. Mine is Viburnum acerfolium, or Mapleleaf viburnum. It has dark blue berries that are bird favorites. It is native to much of the eastern U.S. I also grow natives Viburnum nudum and Viburnum dentatum.

    1. Deb you have quite a nice collection of native viburnums. I have Viburnum nudum as a 1 foot tall beginning shrub in a pot that I hope to plant out this fall or in spring…and I would love Viburnum acerfolium. The birds are overjoyed when the viburnums produce.

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