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.