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Nannyberry is a magnificent yet underutilised native shrub with many qualities; large clusters of creamy white flowers in spring, dark green foliage throughout the summer, showy dark blue fruit in fall and leaves that have an attractive fall colour. It typically grows upright and spreads, and can be categorized as a small tree or as a shrub. Nannyberry is in the muskroot (Adoxaceae) family. The genus Viburnum covers a large number of shrubs and the name is an old Latin name for one particular member of the genus. The species, lentago, comes from another Latin word meaning 'flexible' and was assigned by Linnaeus as the twigs are very tough and flexible.
Trunk/bark: The bark is dark brown (ish) with a blocky appearance. It has raised lenticels that somewhat resemble puffed rice. Older bark becomes dark gray with deeply checkered furrows. Main stems are typically multiple from base, often forming think colonies from root suckers.
Branches/twigs: Twigs are grayish brown, slender and straight, the buds pinkish-brown, slender and up to 2 cm ( ½”) long with flower buds appearing swollen at the base.
Height: Nannyberry grows anywhere from 3 to 7 metres (10 to 25') tall depending on its habitat. It can spread to 4.5 metres (15').
Leaves: Leaves occur opposite, are long (about 5 to 7 cm), oval-shaped with crowed, short, sharp teeth, wavy margins and a winged leafstalk. They are glossy dark green with a lighter underside changing to reddish-purple in the autumn.
Flowers: Nannyberry flowers are small, creamy white, and occur in clusters ( up to ) 11 cm (4 1/2”) flat-topped to slightly domed occurring on at tips of (minimum) one-year old branches. Individual flowers are about 1 cm (¼”) across, bell to saucer-shaped with 5 rounded lobes. In the centre is a single, short style and 5 long, yellow-tipped stamens that extend far beyond the mouth of the floral tube. The calyx around the base of the flower has a short tube and 5 small, triangular lobes. Flower stalks are hairless and green to red. Flowers bloom May to June.
Fruit: Berry-like fruit (drupes) starting out yellow and red and maturing to dark blue or black.
Habitat: Nannyberry grows in a variety of habitats from moist soils; hardwood forest openings, swamps, fens, wet meadows, lake shores, river banks. It grows in part and full sun. The preferred habitat is moist soil in low woods or near water, but it can tolerate drier sites.
Edible parts: Berries are edible raw or used in a variety of ways in beverages or baked goods. The bark has been used in herbal preparations.
Other name: Sheepberry.
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