Black Haw

Viburnum prunifolium

black_haw_viburnum_prunifolium.jpg

Illustration of black haw leaves, flowers, fruit.
Black haw, Viburnum prunifolium.
Paul Nelson
Edible
Other Common Name
Blackhaw
Family

Adoxaceae (elders and viburnums) (formerly in the Caprifoliaceae, or honeysuckles)

Description

Black haw is a shrub or small tree with stiff, spreading branches forming an irregular crown near the top.

Leaves are opposite, simple, 1½–3 inches long, elliptical, margin finely toothed, pointing inward or upward, upper surface dull green and not shiny; lower surface paler and smooth; leaf stalk green to red, slender, not winged, broadly grooved.

Bark is dark gray to brown, furrowed into rectangular plates.

Twigs are slender, rigid, with short lateral spurs.

Flowers April–May, numerous, small, white, in flattened, round-topped clusters 2–4 inches wide.

Fruits September–October, ½ inch long, elliptical, blue-black berry with a whitish coating; on long red stalks; flesh thin and dry but edible and sweet; seed solitary, oval, flat, in a hard covering that is grooved on one side.

Similar species: Ten species in genus Viburnum are known to grow wild in our state. Viburnums can be difficult to identify to species, involving (for example) fairly fussy characteristics of the leaves, such as leafstalk length, venation patterns, the number of teeth along one side, and other precise details.

Size

Height: 30 feet; spread: 20 feet.

blackhaw.jpg

image of black haw
Black Haw

Blackhaw in bloom in Jackson County

Blackhaw in bloom in Jackson County
Blackhaw in bloom in Jackson County
Blackhaw in bloom in Jackson County

Black Haw in Franklin County

Black Haw in bloom. It has small white flowers in clusters on the ends of its branches.
Black Haw in Franklin County
Habitat and conservation

Found in every county in Missouri, occurring in rocky woods, along rocky stream banks, roadsides, and fence rows and on dry rocky hillsides. It has beautiful fall color: deep lavender or maroon-purple, finally becoming deep rose-red, contrasting with clusters of blue-black berries, borne on red stalks, that happen to be quite tasty. If you are thinking of planting one, remember it prefers average soil and full sun.

image of Black Haw Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Human connections

The reds and purples of the autumn foliage and the edible berries make this a good native shrub for landscaping. It can also double as a windbreak. Decades ago, when more Americans led rural lives and walked more, the fruits were nibbled on by many. The root bark has been used medicinally.

Ecosystem connections

Many birds eat the berries, including northern cardinal, cedar waxwing, robin, ruffed grouse, and wild turkey. Mammals that relish the berries include deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, and mice. Deer and beaver eat the twigs, bark, and leaves. Many animals use this shrub for cover.