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While a lot of attention is being paid to native plants and bird protection, many American trees are significant sources of food and medicine as well.
American Viburnum is a shrub found in wet woods, along streams, and on moist wooded hillsides of northern USA and Canada. It is not native to NC and will not like hot humid summers though it may grow in the cooler mountain areas. The shrub will reach 8-12 feet tall and wide with erect spreading and arching stems. The clusters of white flowers appear in spring and are followed by edible red drupes that resemble cranberries and mature in Aug-Sept.
With four seasons of interest, Viburnum opulus var. americanum (American Cranberrybush) is a dense, rounded, deciduous shrub with upright spreading or arching branches. In spring, it produces showy, lacy, white flowers in flat cymes, 3 in. wide (7 cm), of tiny fertile florets surrounded by an outer ring of larger sterile florets. Rich of nectar, they are loved by butterflies, bees and other pollinators. In late summer, the attractive blooms give way to drooping clusters of ornamental bright red berries that persist from fall through early winter. Showy when viewed up-close or from a short distance, they often persist into winter and are quite attractive to birds and wildlife. Tasty, the fruits can be eaten fresh from the shrub or used to make jams and preserves. In the fall, the elegant foliage of three lobed, maple-like, dark green leaves, turns brilliant red. A very rewarding shrub which is not only good-looking, but also durable and easy to grow.
American Highbush Cranberry, also known as Viburnum trilobum, is a common shrub of moist soils in about 3/4s of Minnesota. It is nearly identical to Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus var. opulus), an introduction from Europe that's been widely planted as an ornamental and escapes cultivation. The easiest way to distinguish the two is to look at the glands at the tip of the leaf stalk near the blade (magnification is helpful): those of Guelder-rose are typically shorter than wide, oval-elliptic, and bowl or cup shaped (concave) with a distinct rim; those of the native are typically taller than wide, round to oval, flat or rounded (convex) at the tip, and lack a distinct rim. The groove in the leaf stalk is said to be narrow and deeper (more or less V-shaped) in Guelder-rose where the native has a broader, flat-bottomed groove, but this can be variable and is not diagnostic by itself. The native is more likely to have sparse hairs on the upper leaf surface but this is also variable. The two apparently do hybridize, which makes it even more challenging. (Source: www.minnesotawildflowers.info)