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Downy arrowwood

Upright, white flowers and green leaves of downy arrowwood viburnum

Downy arrowwood is a little known native viburnum that has ornamental characteristics similar to the more commonly planted southern arrowwood.  May be difficult to find in local nurseries.

"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 rafinesquianum

All Common Names:

Downy arrowwood, Downy arrowwood viburnum. Missouri viburnum

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Oval,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size & Form

A bushy shrub reaching 5 to 6 feet high and wide
Can form dense colonies

Tree & Plant Care

Adaptable to sun or shade
Well drained soil, but supplemental water in full sun conditions
Tolerant of heat and drought once established
Prune after flowering

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Common in wooded areas

Bark color and texture 

Young stems are smooth, reddish brown with a silvery-gray coating.
Older stems are reddish brown to gray brown with rust-colored lenticels

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, 2 to 3 inch long and wide, ovate leaves with distinct teeth along irregular margins.
Dark green turning a purplish-red fall color
Short petioles are channeled with a pair of stipules at the base of the leaf.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Cream white flowers in flat-topped to slightly domed,  3-inch clusters
Slightly malodorous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Berry-like fruit (drupes) clusters ripen to bluish black.

Location of Viburnum rafinesquianum (Downy arrowwood) at the Arboretum