Hobblebush on Fire

Viburnum alnifolium


By Bryan Pfeiffer

An entire season of fall foliage flares from a single plant. Find your fireworks on Hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium). This understory gem may be the perfect shrub. It adds food and habitat diversity – for nesting birds and other wildlife – beneath forest canopy. And its blooms play a crafty game of deception each spring.

Viburnum-lantanoides-in-bloom-860x622Hobblebush’s white flowers, arranged in clusters along a branch, are rather puny and inelegant. So the plant surrounds each cluster with a ring of larger, showier paper-white blooms. These flowers are infertile impostors. They cannot produce fruits but look good enough to attract insect pollinators toward the genuine flowers, which go on to produce bursts of apple-red fruits.

But in autumn the leaves steal the show. So go climb a mountain to claim your personal fall foliage – there at your feet. The leaves in that montage above I collected today (October 2, 2013) during an ascent of Mt. Worcester in Washington County, Vermont.

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