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TREES & Plants

American cranberry-bush

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.

Botanical name: 
Viburnum opulus var. americanum (syn. Viburnum trilobum)
All Common Names: 
American cranberry-bush, American cranberry-bush viburnum, American cranberrybush viburnum
Family (English): 
Elderberry
Family (Botanic): 
Adoxaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial shade (4-6 hrs indirect light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Wet sites
  • Occasional flooding
  • Alkaline soil
  • Road salt
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Wet soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Foundation
  • Mixed border
Time of Year: 
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
More Information: 

Size

8 to 12 feet high and wide

Tree & Plant Care

Prune after flowering

Disease, pests, and problems

Viburnum crown borer and viburnum leaf beetle are possible problems

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10

Commonly found in wet or swampy sites

Bark color and texture 

Smooth, gray-brown; splitting into irregular cracks with age

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simples leaves in pairs (opposite)

Dark green, three lobed leaf (somewhat maple-like)

Fall color is red  to purple

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Lace cap type flower clusters (small, fertile flowers surrounded by showy, sterile flowers); white

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

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

Cultivars and their differences 

Compactum  (Viburnum opulus var. americanum  'Compactum'):  Compact cultivar growing 5 to 6 feet high and wide; flowers and fruits well, but has poor fall color (yellow instead of red).

Hahs   (Viburnum opulus var. americanum 'Hahs'):  Selected for better fruit production, this cultivar has larger fruits.  Plant grows 6 to 8 feet high and wide.

Redwing®  (Viburnum opulus var. americanum 'J.N. Select'):  Newly emerging leaves are reddish and fall color is also red.  Good flower and fruit production.