Friday, November 13, 2015

Number 542 - Maple-leaf Viburnum

I just found Blue Jay Barrens plant species number 542, Maple-leaf Viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium.  My first encounter with this plant was many years ago as an undergrad taking a course in local flora at the OSU Marion campus.  I thought it was a wonderful plant then and am certainly happy to have it now as a resident of my property.  This is a native plant, bringing my list of native species up to 446.  That number is approximately 25 percent of the total number of native plants in the State of Ohio.

The Viburnum is growing in a cedar thicket at the base of a south facing slope.  Up until now, few understory species, with the exception of the invasive Autumn Olive, have colonized this area.  It’s certainly nice to see a native shrub here.

This area was cropped up until the mid 1950’s when it was abandoned and let grow up in Eastern Red Cedars.  The deeper soil at this location allowed the cedars to grow rapidly into tall thin trees.  On April 4, 1987, 18 inches of heavy wet snow fell during about a 10 hour period.  The weight of the snow bowed some trees over and brought others all the way to the ground.  Fallen and curved tree trunks are still visible today.

The leaves of Maple-leaf Viburnum are hairy on both sides and feel like soft fabric.

New twig growth also sports a nice crop of hair.

The six narrow Maple-leaf Viburnum trunks in this little group are most likely the result of seed or seeds deposited in a bird dropping.  It’s possible that all six are part of a clonal group developed from the original seedling.  It’s also possible that more than a single seed germinated in this spot.  Seeds from a single bird dropping would naturally end up in close proximity on the ground.

Fruit on the plants are an indication that the cluster of plants are the result of at least two seedlings developing on the site.  Viburnums are not self fertile, so require pollen from a different plant in order to produce fruit.  A clonal group is essentially a single plant and would not produce fruit unless pollen was carried in from somewhere else.  There are no other Maple-leaf Viburnums anywhere near this clump, making it unlikely that a pollinator carrying the correct pollen happened to visit these plants.  The majority of fruits had already been consumed prior to my discovery.  I hope the birds leave the seeds somewhere nearby.  I’m looking forward to watching this plant flower and develop through the summer next year.


  1. Awesome posts! I love your ability to "see" the unique in what too many of us simply don't notice. Thanks. I'll be back to read more!