Texas Natives – October, 2007

A Native Viburnum

Choosing the time of the year when rusty blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) looks its best is difficult – it’s beautiful nearly year-round. During springtime, this native shrub is covered in large clusters of fragrant, creamy-white flowers attracting a variety of butterflies and other insect pollinators. As the flower buds begin to show color, tender new leaves begin to unfurl, providing a verdant backdrop to the floral display. During summer, rusty blackhaw exhibits glossy, dark-green leaves and ripening bluish-black fruit in drooping clusters. The waxy fruit clusters are a popular feast for visiting wildlife. During fall, the lustrous-green deciduous foliage transforms into brilliant shades of scarlet red to burgundy.

Rusty blackhaw is drought-tolerant and requires minimal pruning and care to grace the landscape with its seasonal beauty. Plants can be grown in full sun to shade in any well-drained site. It varies in size and form, from a 10-foot shrub to a 30-foot tree of equal spread. In Texas, it is usually found as an understory tree in the northeastern to central areas of the state. Grown in thin soils, plants will be shorter in size and treelike in shape. In deeper soils, plants will grow much larger in size, and in sunny locations, will eventually develop root suckers.

This slow grower can be used successfully in above-ground planters, along medians and parkways, in shelterbelts, or as a specimen plant in the garden.

Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park has two specimens of rusty blackhaw in the Benny J. Simpson Native Plant Collection. These plants were accessioned from Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center Dallas in February 1996 through the generosity of Dr. Tim Davis and Benny J. Simpson. These shrubs are celebrating 10 years of maturity in the garden.

About the author: Tina Dombrowski is the Director of Horticulture at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, Dallas. She has a particular interest in Texas native plants, butterflies, pollinating insects and their interconnected histories.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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