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TREES & plants

Nannyberry

Creamy-white flowers of Nannyberry viburnum

Nannyberry, which is grown either as a large shrub or a small tree, is great for naturalizing.  This Midwest native is typically found in woodlands and wood edges, known for its dark, lustrous green leaves which turn maroon-red in the fall.  

"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."   

Botanical name: 
Viburnum lentago
All Common Names: 
Nannyberry, Nannyberry viburnum, Sheepberry
Family (English): 
Elderberry
Family (Botanic): 
Adoxaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Utility
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Mixed border
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Dry soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Thicket-forming
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size & form

15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide.
Small tree to multi-stemmed shrub with slightly arching branches and suckering habit.

Tree & Plant Care

Very adaptable from full sun to shade, from dry sites to moist, wet sites.
Flowers on old wood, prune after flowering to maintain size and shape.
Moderate degree of salt tolerance.

Disease, pests, and problems

Viburnum crown borer is a potential problem.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Found in wet to poorly drained site, bogs, prairie habitats and wood edges.
New Brunswick south to Georgia and west to Manitoba and Colorado

Attracts birds & butterflies

Birds are attracted to the fruit that ripens in the fall and often persists into December.
This plant is a caterpillar and larva host to the spring azure butterfly.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is dark, brownish-black with a blocky appearance

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, long, oval shaped leaves with slightly toothed, wavy edges and a winged leafstalk.
Glossy dark green with a lighter underside changing to reddish-purple fall color.

Medium green leaves of nannyberry viburnumNannyberry (Viburnum lentago)photo: John Hagstrom

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small, creamy white flowers in 4 1/4-inch, flat-topped to slightly domed clusters.  Flowers have no fragrance.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Berry-like fruit (drupes) starting out yellow and red and maturing to blue or black.