The Morton Arboretum logo

TREES & plants

American cranberry-bush

Leaves and fruit of American cranberry-bush viburnum.

This native viburnum offers ornamental interest throughout the seasons; flowers in spring, red fruit in late summer and red fall color.  This American species is a better choice than the similar European cranberry-bush which has become an invasive plant in some areas.

"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."   

This plant has some cultivated varieties.  Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name: 
Viburnum opulus var. americanum (syn. Viburnum trilobum)
All Common Names: 
American cranberry-bush, American cranberry-bush viburnum, American cranberrybush viburnum
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Hedge
  • Foundation
  • Mixed border
  • Screen
  • Patio/sidewalk
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Round
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size & form

8 to 12 feet high and wide
Often upright, multi-stemmed, rounding with age.
Syn.  Viburnum trilobum

Tree & Plant Care

Prefers well-drained to moist soil in full sun or part shade
Adaptable to soil pH
Flowers on old wood, prune after flowering

Disease, pests, and problems

Viburnum crown borer and viburnum leaf beetle

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10
Commonly found in wet or swampy sites but will tolerate drier sites once establish
Native to northern North America, from Newfoundland west to British Columbia, south to Washington state and east to northern Virginia. 

Bark color and texture 

Smooth, gray-brown with large, expanding lenticels
Bark splits into irregular cracks with age

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, maple-like, 3-lobed leaves up to 5 inches long.
Each leaf has irregular teeth on margins; dark green changing to reddish-purple fall color.
Petioles are 1 inch long and have flat-topped glands at base of leaf blade (good ID indicator).

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers appear in June after the leaves emerge.
Large 4 to 5 inch, white, lacecap flower clusters (small, fertile flowers surrounded by showy, sterile flowers)

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Red, berry-like fruits (drupes) resembling cranberries; edible

Cultivars and their differences 

“This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

Bailey Compact American Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum 'Bailey Compact'): Compact, dwarf rounded form; 5 to 6 feet high and wide; deep red fall color

Dwarf American Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum  'Compactum'):  Compact cultivar growing 5 to 6 feet high and wide; white lacecap flowers and red fruit;  fall color is yellow.

Hahs American Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum 'Hahs'):  Selected for better, larger fruit production;  grows 6 to 8 feet high and wide; dark green foliage turns red in fall.

Redwing® J.N. Select Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum 'J.N. Select'):  Newly emerging leaves has a hint of red; white flowers appear mid-to-late spring; persistent bright red fruit, and consistently red fall color.  Good flower and fruit production. A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.