South Dakota Native Plant Research
Caprifoliaceae : Viburnum lentago

Caprifoliaceae : Viburnum lentago


Download Seed: The seed, which is a flattened stone, is around 1 cm long. (59 KB)

Download Vegetative: The leave blades are 4-10 mm long. (77 KB)

Download Flowering: The five flowers are in terminal clusters. (920 KB)

Download Fruiting: The fruit is a drupe that when ripe turns a dark purplish black. (905 KB)

Download Ripening fruit (1.0 MB)

Download Fall leaves (906 KB)

Download Plants in the Black Hills (1.2 MB)

Family Name


Common Name

Nannyberry, sheepberry

Native American Name

Lakota: mnahú


Viburnum lentago is a perennial, multi-stemmed tall shrub or small tree, 2-5 m tall and forming colonies from root suckers. Young stems usually have smooth, gray to reddish brown bark, and on older stems the bark becomes dark gray with deeply checkered furrows. The simple, opposite leaves have long winged petioles (10-30 mm) with stellate reddish-brown hairs at the base. The blades are ovate to broadly elliptic, 5-9 cm long and 3-6 cm wide, the tips pointed, the margins finely toothed, the upper surface dark green and shiny and the lower surface paler. The umbel-like inflorescences are 5-12 cm across sessile at the ends of 1-year old branches. Each flower has a tubular calyx with 5 short lobes and a white, bell to saucer shaped, 5-lobed corolla that is 2.5-3.5 mm long. The 5 stamens are exserted from the corolla. The fruit are dark blue-black, flattened, globose drupes, 10-14 mm long, pulpy with a whitish, waxy coating, each containing a large, flat, yellowish seed. Nannyberry blooms in May and June in open woods, along streambanks and occasionally in ditches in the eastern and western counties of South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Nannyberry is an excellent shrub in moist gardens. It is very useful in foundation plantings where it can act to prevent water seepage into basements. The fruits are edible, if somewhat mealy. The flowers attract native bees, honeybees, beetles, flies, moths and butterflies and the fruit remain attached through the winter, attracting robins and other birds that feed upon them.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in July to August, after the fruit has turned dark blue to black. Extract the seed from the fruit to increase the germination percentage. Plant only the seeds that sink in water after the fleshy tissue has been removed.

Germination: Seeds are dormant, fall sowing is recommended. Use a warm (180 day) cold (60 day) stratification for spring planting.

Vegetative Propagation: Separate suckers in the spring. Softwood cuttings in early summer.

Soils: Well-drained sandy to rocky soils.

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Likes moist to mesic areas.

Caprifoliaceae : Viburnum lentago