Witherod Viburnum

Viburnum cassinoides

Description & Overview

Witherod viburnum is typically found in wetter conditions such as swamps and marshes, moist fields, and woods. This native North American shrub offers visual interest during all four seasons with white flowers in the spring, beautiful red-orange leaves in the fall, and fruit that changes colors as it matures throughout the growing season. Each fruit bundle displays a multitude of colors as each drupe matures from white to pink, red, blue, and then finally to a blue-black that persists throughout. Witherod viburnum may also be known as Swamp Haw or Northern Wild-raisin.


Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 5-6 feet
Mature Spread: 5-6 feet
Growth Rate: Perennial
Growth Form: Shrub
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Prefers acidic, wet, well-drained soil
Flower: Small, White, Flat-topped Clusters
Bloom Period: Early June
Foliage: Glossy, Dark Green
Fall Color: Red, Orange, Purple
Fruit Notes: Showy drupe matures from green to white, pink, to red, to black. Persistent.

Suggested Uses:

Witherod Viburnum is a great shrub for an area with wetter conditions. It would make itself quite at home around a pond perimeter, in a rain garden, and it can even handle occasional flooding.

Viburnum is not self-pollinating. Plant en masse in a hedge or a thicket to ensure a high fruit yield. More shrubs would also attract more pollinators, a win-win!

This can be planted as a single specimen in a yard to add a splash of fall color.

Note: If the only option is a dryer site, Nannyberry Viburnum is a good alternative to Witherod Viburnum. Nannyberry also displays blue/black-berries but it can mature to larger sizes.

Wildlife Value:

Finch, grossbeaks, thrashers, grouse, and other birds eat the berries. Mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, hare, skunk, and deer will also eat the berries. In general, it doesn’t provide a large percentage of any species’ diet unless you find it growing in a dense thicket where many berries are available.

Maintenance Tips:

Prune after flowering so you don’t miss out on next year’s flowers, or in late fall to re-shape.

Take care when trimming or mowing around the shrub’s base as wounds can make it more susceptible to the Viburnum Crownborer.

Pests/Problems:

Witherod Viburnum is moderately susceptible to the Viburnum Leaf Beetle. Most likely, the result would cause a cosmetic issue rather than a fatal one.

Viburnum Crownborers can kill the tops of shrubs. You can help prevent this by protecting the trunk from any wounds, thereby inducing stress and making the shrub more susceptible to invasion.

Leaf Lore:

The term “witherod” comes from the old English word withe meaning flexible, and rod, meaning stem. From the darker side of history, it has been said that teachers used to prefer stems from this shrub when choosing switches used for discipline.

Wrinkles form as the mature blue/black fruit ages and begin to dry, hence the name Northern Wild-raisin.

“Haw” is a word used for the red fruit of a hawthorn. It may be that because Witherod Viburnum is found in swamps and its fruits are at times red, so someone began calling it Swamp Haw.

Historical Uses: Though the fruit contains a large seed, the small amount of flesh from the berry that’s leftover is edible and supposedly tastes rather good. The leaves can make a pleasant tea when boiled. Infusions have been used to treat fever, and the root and bark were used to treat smallpox.

Companion Plants:

To create a naturalized area with wet soil Witherod Viburnum can be planted with the likes of Silky Dogwood, Buttonbush, Meadowsweet, American Elderberry, Tamarack, Big Bluestem, Lady Fern Wild Iris, Wild Bergamot, Spiderwort, Shooting Star, and Red Milkweed.

Create a thicket or a hedge if the goal is to provide food and shelter for birds and mammals. This would also look beautiful in the fall!




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