by Sharon LaPlante
Walter's viburnum, Viburnum obovatum, is a native
shrub or small tree, in the Caprifoliaceae or honeysuckle
It can be found growing in moist pine flatwoods, stream and
river banks, swamps, hammocks, and also in much drier uplands. It has a colonial habit and will produce
suckers. It typically has a densely
branched habit, but specimens grown in shade will be slightly more lanky. Branches produce many small, stiff,
Mature plants can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet. The leaves are opposite, simple, 3/4 to
2 inches in length, and obovate in shape (narrower at base than tip). Leaf margins are entire except for
occasionally scalloping at the tips.
The lower leaf surface has small brown glandular dots. It is tardily deciduous losing leaves as
new ones emerge. The leaves look much like yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria,
however the holly's leaves are alternate.
Viburnum obovatum is the earliest blooming viburnum with numerous flat topped clusters of white flowers appearing in late winter to early spring. It may also produce sporadic blooms in mid to late summer. The very small individual flowers have five petals and are an important nectar source for many insects.
Red when immature, the fruit turns black at maturity. It is a flattened drupe that is oval to elliptic in shape with a single seed. The fruit is a food source for wild turkey, songbirds, and small mammals.
Viburnum obovatum can provide ornamental beauty to the
home landscape as well as food and shelter for wildlife. It is an excellent candidate for use as
a hedge because of its dense foliage and thicket forming habit, and can be
pruned to maintain a desired shape or left to grow naturally. The dense foliage provides excellent
nesting habitat for songbirds. It
will produce the most dense foliage and flowers if planted in partial sun, but
will also tolerate much shadier areas.
It is extremely adaptable to a variety of conditions and can be grown in
wet to dry conditions with sandy to organic soils. Once established it can actually be
Propagation can be most easily achieved by stem or root
cuttings. The best time for
cuttings is March through June.
Propagation can also be achieved by seed, sown immediately after
collection, but cuttings are much easier and faster.
Bowman, Sheryl, et al. The Right Plant for Dry Places. Great Outdoors Publishing Co.: St. Petersburg, FL. 1997
Huegel, Craig N. Florida Plants for Wildlife. The Florida Native Plant Society. 1995
Martin, Alexander. American Wildlife & Plants: A Guide To Wildlife Food Habits. Dover Publications: New York, NY. 1951
Nelson, Gil. The Trees of Florida. Pineapple Press: Sarasota, FL 1994
Tobe, Ph.D., John D. et al. Florida Wetland Plants: An Identification Manual. UF/IFAS Publications: Gainesville, FL. 1998
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