Viburnums

Guelder-rose Bodnant Viburnum Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree

What are they?

This is a rather variable group of woody shrubs which may be deciduous or evergreen and includes both native and introduced species. The viburnums were traditionally placed in the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae) but their flowers have five regular petals and are typically carried in many-branched, flattened or domed heads. Along with the elders, they are now considered to be in the Adoxaceae.

Where are they found?

Viburnums span a wide range of habitats, with native species occurring in damp soils or on chalk, but our native species are also widely planted in hedgerows on a range of soil types, while non-native species can occur anywhere that garden waste may be deposited or where they survive from original plantings.

Identification

These woody shrubs all tend to have many-branched, flattened or domed heads of small, five-petalled flowers and leaves arranged in opposite pairs. In this, they rather resemble the elders, but elders differ in having pinnate, not simple leaves. The viburnums vary greatly in their leaves and noting the details of these, coupled with subtle differences in their flowerheads, should confirm identification.



Guelder-rose      Viburnum opulus

Native and common throughout much of East Anglia on chalky soils and in wet woodland and fens. Also much planted as a hedgerow plant. Flowers June to July. The flowerheads are rather like those of the 'lacecap' hydrangeas, in having sterile flowers with enlarged, petal-like bracts arranged around the outside of the flowerheads. As a native, this is a very distinctive shrub, but planted specimens may inadvertently involve the Asian Viburnum sargentii (with duller leaves and purplish anthers) or the North American V. trilobum (with narrower end lobes to the leaves, sharper marginal leaf teeth and petiole glands stalked).

Guelder-rose Guelder-rose Guelder-rose Guelder-rose
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Inner, fertile flowers
Guelder-rose Guelder-rose Guelder-rose Guelder-rose
Leaf
Berries
Winter leaf buds
Winter flower buds


Cultivated Guelder-rose      Viburnum opulus cultivated forms

Cultivated forms of Viburnum opulus are sometimes planted or otherwise find their way into the wider countryside. Some vary little in general appearance from the species, but may have larger, more showy, sterile flowers in the flowerhead, or may have yellow berries. The variety 'Roseum' has flowerheads consisting of rounded balls of sterile flowers only, so consequently does not produce berries.

Cultivated Guelder-rose Cultivated Guelder-rose Cultivated Guelder-rose
Flowers
Habit (form 'Roseum')
Flowers (form 'Roseum')


Wayfaring-tree      Viburnum lantana

Native on chalk soils in the west of our region, but more widely occurs in hedgerows where it has been deliberately planted. Flowers May to June. Leaves strongly corrugated with densely hairy undersides.

Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree Wayfaring-tree
Leaf
Berries
Stem hairs
Winter twig and buds


Laurustinus      Viburnum tinus

Introduced from the Mediterranean region and commonly grown as a garden shrub. Occasionally found in the wider countryside where surviving as a relic of cultivation. Flowers November to April. Leaves smaller than those of other viburnums; evergreen and with hairy margins. Flowers often pink in bud on some horticultural varieties.

Laurustinus Laurustinus Laurustinus Laurustinus
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Laurustinus Laurustinus Laurustinus Laurustinus
Leaves
Leaf margin
Berries
Berries


Wrinkled Viburnum      Viburnum rhytidophyllum

Introduced from China as a garden ornamental and occasionally found in the wider countryside where surviving as a relic of cultivation or where bird-sown berries have germinated. Flowers May to June. An open, spreading bush that may grow to 6m in height. Leaves large (up to 20cm in length) with a very distinctive, wrinkled look above and densely hairy below.

Wrinkled Viburnum Wrinkled Viburnum Wrinkled Viburnum
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Wrinkled Viburnum Wrinkled Viburnum Wrinkled Viburnum
Leaf upperside
Leaf underside
Winter buds


Bodnant Viburnum      Viburnum x bodnantense

A hybrid of garden origin, raised at Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. Quite commonly cultivated and occsionally found as a relic of cultivation or where planted in hedgerows or churchyards and other landscaped sites. Has been growing for some years beside a car park on Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve where unwanted garden plants were either dumped or planted. Flowers November to April. A spindly, rather open and upright bush to 3m in height. Deciduous, with the highly fragrant flowers appearing in small bunches sporadically throughout the winter period.

Smaller plants with smaller, paler flowers that are only lightly tinged pink may be Viburnum farreri, which is occasionally grown and is one of the parents of this hybrid.

Bodnant Viburnum Bodnant Viburnum Bodnant Viburnum Bodnant Viburnum
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Bodnant Viburnum Bodnant Viburnum Bodnant Viburnum
Leaves
Leaves
Winter twig