New York Metropolitan Flora

Viburnum prunifolium L. - Black-Haw

Viburnum prunifolium
Photo by Steven D. Glenn

Native , Common

By Steven D. Glenn

Not peer reviewed

Last Modified 05/22/2013

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Viburnum prunifolium

Common Names


Field Identification

Shrub with opposite, finely-toothed leaves; with clusters of small white flowers followed by dark blue-black berries. Most easily confused with V. lentago -
Petioles without bumpy, wavy margins and usually maroon-red; leaf apices acute; leaves dark green...Viburnum prunifolium
Petioles with bumpy, wavy margins and usually green; leaf apices acuminate; leaves light green...Viburnum lentago

Food uses

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. We do not recommend nor do we condone the use of this species for food purposes without first consulting a physician.

Moerman, 1998 Native Americans ate the fruit raw, and used it to make a jam.

Medicinal uses

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. We do not recommend nor do we condone the use of this species for medicinal purposes without first consulting a physician.

Moerman, 1998 Used by Native Americans to treat spasms, fever, smallpox, sore tongue, and used as a tonic for the "female generative organs".

Other uses

Rehder, 1940 Flint, 1983

Used as an ornamental in landscaping situations, hardy to USDA zone 3.


*Viburnum prunifolium L., Sp. Pl. 268. 1753.
Viburnum lentago sensu Du Roi, Harbk. Baumz. 2: 485. 1772, not L. 1753.
Viburnum pyrifolium Gordon, Dermer & Edmonds, Cat. Trees Shrubs Pl. 35. 1782.
Viburnum amblodes Raf., Alsogr. Am. 55. 1838.
Viburnum lentago var. pyrifolium Chapman, Fl. South U.S. ed. 3, 189. 1897.
TYPE: USA, Virginia, Williamsburg: 1734, Clayton 47. (Lectotype: Kalm s.n., LINN 379.4), designated by Malecot, 2002


HABIT Perennial, deciduous, phanerophytic, small tree or shrub, monoclinous, 1-8 m tall.

STEMS Main stems ascending or erect, round. Bark plated, not exfoliating, gray or dark gray. Branches ascending. Twigs brown or light brown or light gray or gray, not odoriferous, terete, 2-5 mm in diam., smooth, glabrous, eglandular, often with short side shoots perpendicular to twig. Pith light brown or white, round, continuous, nodal diaphragm absent. Sap translucent. For a detailed discussion of stem architecture see Donoghue, 1981. For a detailed analysis of the root anatomy see Gasson, 1979.

BUDS Terminal and axillary present, dimorphic, scattered along stem; terminal bud oblong, 3.5-10 mm long, pointed, terminal flower bud swollen at base and longer than vegetative bud; axillary buds 1 per axil, oblong, 1.5-5 mm long, pointed. Bud scales 2, dark brown, valvate, glabrous, eglandular. Bud scale scars not encircling the stem. Leaf scars thinly crescent-shaped. Vascular bundle scars 3.

LEAVES Opposite, simple, spiral, 2 per node, spaced somewhat evenly along stem, divergent from stem. Stipules absent. Leaves petiolate, petiole furrowed, 0.6-2 cm long, glabrous or with long and unbranched hairs or with sessile scales, spreading, sparse or moderately dense, distributed throughout. Not glabrescent, eglandular, often deep red, extending into midvein. Leaf blades: abaxial surface light green or green, adaxial surface green or dark green, elliptic or ovate or obovate, bilaterally symmetric, 3-8 cm long, 1.5-5.5 cm wide, chartaceous, base acute or cuneate or obtuse, margin toothed, serrulate, apex acute or obtuse, abaxial surface glabrous or with sessile scales, reddish orange, sparse, distributed throughout or distributed along midveins, eglandular. Adaxial surface glabrous or with sessile reddish orange scales, sparsely distributed along midveins, eglandular; midvein often proximally deep red. Often reduced leaves present.

INFLORESCENCES Bisexual, compound, terminal umbelliform cyme, often orange-red scurfy throughout below ovaries except on bracteoles. Peduncle absent, inflorescence sessile. Rachis absent. Bracts sessile, linear triangular, apex acute, caducous. Pedicel 1.5-2 mm long, glabrous or with sessile scales, reddish orange, sparse or moderately dense, eglandular. Bracteoles 0 or 1, at base of pedicel or at apex of pedicel, bracteoles: abaxial surface light yellowish green or light reddish violet, linear triangular or ovate, 1-1.5 mm long, 0.5-1 mm wide, margin entire, apex acute, glabrous, eglandular, distally light reddish-violet, caducous.

FLOWERS Serotinous, formed on last season's growth, bisexual, with sepals and petals readily distinguishable from one another, 5-merous, fragrance absent. Calyx actinomorphic, tubular, of fused sepals, persistent, abaxial and adaxial surfaces light yellow or white. Sepal lobes 5, deltate, 0.5-1 mm long, 0.5-1 mm wide, margin entire, apex obtuse, abaxial surface glabrous, eglandular. Corolla actinomorphic, acetabuliform, of fused petals, deciduous, abaxial and adaxial surfaces light yellow or white, 4-7 mm wide. Petal lobes 5, very widely ovate, 2-2.5 mm long, 2 mm wide, margin entire, apex obtuse, eglandular; abaxial surface glabrous, adaxial surface glabrous. Gynoecium syncarpous. Carpels 1. Locules 3, 2 abortive, 1 fertile. Stigmas 1, 3-lobed on a short stylopodium at the top of the ovary. Styles 1, short, conical, glabrous. Ovary inferior, glabrous, eglanular. Placentation axile or parietal. Androecium alternate, epipetalous, exserted, haplostemous. Stamens 5. Anthers yellow, glabrous, eglandular. Filaments straight, white, glabrous, adnate to base of petals. For a morphological analysis of pollen see Donoghue, 1985.

FRUITS Drupe, red and green when immature, turning dark blue or black, often glaucous, ellipsoid, 9-12 mm long, 7-8 mm wide, eglandular.

SEEDS Seeds 1, light yellow, lenticular, 10-12 mm long, 7-8 mm wide, glabrous, eglandular, pusticulate, orange-red with attached endocarp.


Mesic to moist woods, thickets, and roadsides.


Native to the eastern United States.

United States -- AK, AL, CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV

New York Metropolitan Region -- Native throughout the metropolitan region, diminishing in Connecticut and Long Island.

Rarity Status

Global Heritage Rank -- G5

Connecticut -- S3

New Jersey -- Not listed

New York -- Not listed

Species Biology

Flowering April [week 4] - June [week 1]


Waldbauer, 1984

Mycophily -- Temnostoma spp.

Fruiting June [week 2] - November [week 2] (to next Spring)


(Ridley, 1930) (Martin, 1951) (White, 1992) (Stoll, 1980)

Endozoochory -- Avian frugivores: Pinicola enucleator (Pine Grosbeak), Turdus migratorius (Robin), Acanthis flammea (Redpoll), Cardinalis cardinalis (Cardinal), Vireo olivaceus (Red-eyed Vireo), Bonasa umbellus (Ruffed Grouse), Phasianus colchicus (Ring-necked Pheasant), Meleagris gallopava (Turkey), Sturnus vulgaris (Starling), Catharus minimus (Gray-cheeked Thrush), Catharus guttata (Hermit Thrush), Catharus ustulata (Olive-backed Thrush), Myiarchus crinitus (Great Crested Flycatcher), Bombycilla cedrorum (Cedar waxwing), Dryocopus pileatus (Pileated Woodpecker),

Mammals: Peromyscus spp.(White-footed Mice), Tamias striatus (Chipmunk), Euarctos americanus (Black Bear), Vulpes fulva (Red Fox), Sciurus carolinensis (Eastern Gray Squirrel), Sciurus niger (Eastern Fox Squirrel), Sylvilagus floridanus (Cottontail Rabbit), Mephitis mephitis (Skunk)


Schopmeyer, 1974 Giersbach, 1937 Fedec, 1973

Viburnum seed is slow to germinate and most species have embryo dormancy as well as seedling (epicotyl) dormancy. Germination is epigeous. Stratification at a constant 20 degrees C or a daily alternating temperature of 20 to 30 degrees C for germination followed by a low temperature pre-treatment for seedling production generally gives the best results. Seedling dormancy might be overcome by removal of the cotyledons or by a treatment of gibberellic acid (GA3). Stratification for 150+ days at 68[night]-86[day] degrees F followed by 30-45 days at 41 degrees F in moist sand or peat has given good results. Stratification for 6-8 months at a constant 20 degrees C or a daily alternating temperature of 20 to 30 degrees C in moist soil or peat has given good results. Seed can probably be stored in a sealed container at 41 degrees F with little loss of viability after one to two years.

Dried seeds can be stored at low temperature for several years. Young, 1992