Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides)
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Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) is a native deciduous shrub which abounds in rich, moist woods throughout the Adirondack Mountains. It produces flat-topped clusters of fragrant white flowers in the spring. The clusters are 2-6 inches wide; the flowers on the outer edge of each cluster are much larger than those in the middle. The large showy flowers along the edge of the cluster are sterile, while the small inner flowers have both male and female parts. The heart-shaped leaves are prominently veined and finely saw-toothed, with rust-colored hairs on the undersides. The flowers are followed in September by red berries gradually changing to dark blue, and attractive bronze-red or purple foliage in the fall. The shrub grows to a height of three to six feet.
Hobblebush is a member of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae). The name Hobblebush refers to the fact that the plant has pendulous branches which form obstacles which easily trip (or hobble) walkers. This plant is also known as Witch-Hobble, Moosewood, and Alder-leaved Viburnum.
Hobblebush serves a variety of wildlife. Browsers eat its twigs and leaves. Game birds, songbirds, and mammals eat the fruit. In addition, Hobblebush is said to be larval host and/or a nectar source for the Spring Azure butterfly.
The fruit of the Hobblebush reportedly may be eaten raw or cooked and is said to taste somewhat like raisins or dates. Hobblebush has a number of medicinal uses. The Algonquin reportedly rubbed its mashed leaves on the head to treat migraines. Iroquois are said to-have used a decoction of roots as a blood medicine. The plant was also used to treat chest and breathing problems.
Hobblebush grows in rich, moist woods, by stream banks, and in swamps. It flourishes in the north eastern portions of the US and Canada, including New York State. Hobblebush is very common in the cooler parts of New York State, including the Adirondacks, where it can form dense thickets. The plant may also be found south to Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
At the Paul Smiths VIC, Hobblebush may be found along most trails. It usually blooms in this part of the Adirondack Park in May, depending on the weather.
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- United States Department of Agriculture. Plants Database.
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- Ruth Schottman, Trailside Notes: A Naturalist's Companion to Adirondack Plants (Adirondack Mountain Club, 1998), pp. 126-129.