fbpx Nannyberry | The Morton Arboretum


Creamy-white flowers of Nannyberry viburnum.

Nannyberry is grown as a large shrub or a small tree reaching 15 to 20 feet high, known for its dark, lustrous green leaves which turn maroon-red in the fall. 
This Midwest native is typically found in woodlands and wood edges, a great plant for naturalizing.

"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):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility,
  • Windbreak

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons 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, in 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

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.

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
Nannyberry (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.



Location of Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry) at the Arboretum