Blackhaw Viburnum prunifolium
Blackhaw is a native plant that I was lucky to have already growing in my garden. It typically grows as a large, multi-stem shrub or small tree that will grow 12 to 15 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide. In the wild it’s commonly seen in various types of woodlands and along woodland edges. Blackhaw is an understory species commonly associated with oak ecosystems. It will disappear as the oak woodlands are invaded by various honeysuckles.
Clusters (cymes) of fragrant white flowers bloom in mid to late spring for approximately 2 weeks. The fruit, a blue-black drupe that matures in the fall is sweet and edible though there is not much flesh surrounding the inner seed. Fall leave color contrasts nicely with the drupes. Since Blackhaw flowers on old wood, it should be pruned right after flowering.
As with all viburnums, the branching pattern is opposite. Blackhaw is similar in appearance to Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) but the leaves are more finely toothed and less susceptible to powdery mildew. The name Blackhaw refers to the trunk color and twiggy branching pattern that is reminiscent of Hawthorn. Glossy dark green leaves turn shades of reddish purple in the fall.
Blackhaw is a very adaptable shrub and not particular about soil type or moisture. It will grow successfully in drier soils and those with good soil moisture (mesic). Soil types may be loam with clay or sand and can be rocky. An understory woodland species, it prefers part sun to part shade and will become more full when grown in full sun.
Flowers produce both nectar and pollen that attract a wide range of bees and flies as pollinators. Butterflies, skippers, and hummingbird moths are also attracted to the flowers as are the caterpillars of the Spring/Summer Azure and Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies which feed on flowers/buds and leaves respectively.
A number of moth caterpillars including the Clearwing Hummingbird moth, also feed on this viburnum. Birds are attracted to the drupes, particularly during fall migration, and chipmunks and squirrels also find their way to this flavorful meal.
Use Blackhaw in mass plantings, as an accent, or in a hedge as a screen. It is an attractive plant with high wildlife value that should be planted in gardens more often!