Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sheepberry
Family:Adoxaceae (Moschatel)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist soil; hardwood forest openings, swamps, fens, wet meadows, lake shores, river banks
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:10 to 25 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Dense, rounded flower clusters 2 to 3½ inches across at tips of one-year old branches. Flowers are creamy white, about ¼ inch across, bell to saucer-shaped with 5 rounded lobes. In the center is a single, short style and 5 long, yellow-tipped stamens that extend far beyond the mouth of the floral tube. The calyx around the base of the flower has a short tube and 5 small, triangular lobes. Flower stalks are hairless and green to red.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and opposite, lance-elliptic to nearly oval, 2 to 4 inches long, 1¼ to 2¼ inches, wide with an abrupt taper to a sharply pointed tip, and rounded at the base. The leaf stalk is ½ to 1¼ inch long, typically flattened with irregular wings. Surfaces are hairless, the upper surface dark green and shiny, lower surface paler, mostly smooth or with very tiny scale-like covering. Edges have crowded, short, sharp teeth.

[photo of twig and buds] Twigs are grayish brown, slender and straight, the buds pinkish-brown, slender and up to ½ inch long with flower buds appearing swollen at the base.

[photo of older bark] Older bark becomes dark gray with deeply checkered furrows, lower stems up to 5½ inches diameter. Main stems are typically multiple from base, often forming think colonies from root suckers. 

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a slightly flattened, elliptical, fleshy, berry-like drupe, 1/3 to ½ inch long, green turning purplish-red then darkening to blue-black, juicy, and containing a single seed.


Nannyberry is not only common throughout most of Minnesota, it's become a fairly popular landscaping shrub in urban areas. While it's typically a densely mutliple stemmed shrub in open sites, the plant industry had deemed it fit to train it to a single stem, marketing it more as a small tree. That works only as well as the final property owner dutifully prunes out the numerous suckers it attempts to produce. Even then, it will not persist long term as a single stemmed small tree, over time losing its vigor and esthetic form.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Anoka, Ramsey and Winona counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mike - Minneapolis
on: 2017-01-24 22:14:44

Hello there, Thanks a lot for running this site, I use it all the time as a student in landscape architecture at the U of M. I'm studying plants for stormwater design right now, and I'm wondering what the acronyms GP, MW, and NCNE mean for the wetland indicator status. I understand the classifications for wetland/upland plants, just not these categories that you have them broken into. Thanks a lot! Mike

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-02-22 05:59:03

Mike, those are the regional codes (e.g. MW=Midwest) assigned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Info on wetland indicator status (among other things) is available on their national wetland plants website.

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