AskDefine | Define viburnum

Dictionary Definition

Viburnum n : deciduous or evergreen shrubs or small trees: arrow-wood; wayfaring tree [syn: genus Viburnum]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any of many shrubs and trees, of the genus Viburnum, native to the Northern Hemisphere that have showy clusters of flowers

Extensive Definition

Viburnum (Viburnum) is a genus of about 150-175 species of shrubs or (in a few species) small trees that were previously included in the family Caprifoliaceae. Genetic tests by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group showed however that they are correctly classified in the family Adoxaceae.
They are native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere, with a few species extending into tropical montane regions in South America and southeast Asia. In Africa, the genus is confined to the Atlas Mountains.
The leaves are opposite, simple, and entire, toothed or lobed; cool temperate species are deciduous, while most of the warm temperate species are evergreen. Some species are densely hairy on the shoots and leaves, with star-shaped hairs.
The flowers are produced in corymbs 5-15 cm across, each flower white to cream or pink, small, 3-5 mm across, with five petals, strongly fragrant in some species. The gynoecium has 3 connate carpels with the nectary on top of the gynoecium. Some species also have a fringe of large, showy sterile flowers round the perimeter of the corymb to act as a pollinator target.
The fruit is a spherical, oval or somewhat flattened drupe, red to purple, blue, or black, and containing a single seed; they are eaten by birds and other wildlife, and some are edible for humans (though many others are mildly poisonous to people). The leaves are sometimes eaten by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Viburnum.


About 150 species are known, including the following:

Cultivation and uses

Many species of viburnum have become popular as garden or landscape plants because of their showy flowers and berries and generally good autumn colour. Some popular species, hybrids, and cultivars include:
  • The hybrid Viburnum × bodnantense (V. farreri × V. grandiflorum) is particularly popular for its strongly scented pink flowers on the leafless deciduous shoots in mid to late winter.
  • Viburnum × burkwoodii (V. carlesii × V. utile)
  • Viburnum × carlcephallum (V. carlesii × V. macrocephalum)
  • Viburnum carlesii has flowers that look somewhat like snowballs, excellent fragrance, dense structure, and reddish leaves in autumn.
  • Viburnum davidii is an evergreen species from China with blue fruit.
  • Viburnum dentatum has flat-topped flowers, bluish fruit, and reddish leaves in autumn. It is somewhat salt tolerant. The cultivar 'Blue Muffin' is more compact than the species and has fruit that are a deeper blue than the species.
  • Viburnum dilatatum has flat-topped flowers, reddish leaves in autumn, and bright red fruit that persist into winter.
  • Viburnum × juddii (V. bitchiuense × V. carlesii)
  • Viburnum plicatum has white, snowball-like flowers, textured leaves, reddish-black fruit, and can grow quite large under ideal conditions. The species can tolerate shade, but not drought. The variety tomentosum has flat-topped flowers but is otherwise the same as the species.
  • Viburnum × pragense (V. rhytidophyllum × V. utile)
  • Viburnum × rhytidophylloides (V. lantana × V. rhytidophyllum)
  • Viburnum rhytidophyllum is a popular evergreen species, grown mainly for its foliage effect of large, dark green leathery leaves with strongly wrinkled surface. This is the parent species of two popular hybrid cultivars known as 'Alleghany' and 'Pragense'. 'Alleghany' was selected from a hybrid between V. rhytidophyllum and V. lantana 'Mohican' (in 1958, at the US National Arboretum).
  • Viburnum setigerum has upright, coarse structure and orange to reddish-orange fruit.
  • Viburnum sieboldii has coarse, open structure, flat-topped flowers, reddish-black fruit, and can grow as a small tree.

Other uses

In prehistory, the long straight shoots of viburnums were used for arrow-shafts, as those found with Ötzi the Iceman.
The fruit of some species (e.g. V. lentago) are edible and can be eaten either raw or for making jam, while other species (e.g. V. opulus) are mildly toxic and can cause vomiting if eaten in quantity.
The bark of some species is used in herbal medicine, as an anti-spasmodic and to treat asthma.


viburnum in Bulgarian: Калина
viburnum in Danish: Snebolle
viburnum in German: Schneeball (Gattung)
viburnum in Spanish: Viburnum
viburnum in Esperanto: Viburno
viburnum in French: Viorne
viburnum in Upper Sorbian: Kaledźina
viburnum in Italian: Viburnum
viburnum in Hebrew: מורן
viburnum in Lithuanian: Putinas (augalas)
viburnum in Dutch: Sneeuwbal (geslacht)
viburnum in Japanese: ガマズミ属
viburnum in Polish: Kalina (roślina)
viburnum in Portuguese: Viburnum
viburnum in Russian: Калина
viburnum in Swedish: Olvonsläktet
viburnum in Tajik: Будоғ
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