Black Haw

Illustration of black haw leaves, flowers, fruit.
Safety Concerns
Scientific Name
Viburnum prunifolium
Adoxaceae (elders and viburnums) (formerly in the Caprifoliaceae, or honeysuckles)

Black haw is a shrub or small tree with stiff, spreading branches forming an irregular crown near the top.

Leaves are opposite, simple, 1½–3 inches long, elliptical, margin finely toothed, pointing inward or upward, upper surface dull green and not shiny; lower surface paler and smooth; leaf stalk green to red, slender, not winged, broadly grooved.

Bark is dark gray to brown, furrowed into rectangular plates.

Twigs are slender, rigid, with short lateral spurs.

Flowers April–May, numerous, small, white, in flattened, round-topped clusters 2–4 inches wide.

Fruits September–October, ½ inch long, elliptical, blue-black berry with a whitish coating; on long red stalks; flesh thin and dry but edible and sweet; seed solitary, oval, flat, in a hard covering that is grooved on one side.

Similar species: Ten species in genus Viburnum are known to grow wild in our state. Viburnums can be difficult to identify to species, involving (for example) fairly fussy characteristics of the leaves, such as leafstalk length, venation patterns, the number of teeth along one side, and other precise details.

Other Common Names

Height: 30 feet; spread: 20 feet.

Where To Find
image of Black Haw Distribution Map


Found in every county in Missouri, occurring in rocky woods, along rocky stream banks, roadsides, and fence rows and on dry rocky hillsides. It has beautiful fall color: deep lavender or maroon-purple, finally becoming deep rose-red, contrasting with clusters of blue-black berries, borne on red stalks, that happen to be quite tasty. If you are thinking of planting one, remember it prefers average soil and full sun.

Native Missouri shrub or small tree. Very popular in landscaping for its high ornamental and wildlife value.

The reds and purples of the autumn foliage and the edible berries make this a good native shrub for landscaping. It can also double as a windbreak. Decades ago, when more Americans led rural lives and walked more, the fruits were nibbled on by many. The root bark has been used medicinally.

Many birds eat the berries, including northern cardinal, cedar waxwing, robin, ruffed grouse, and wild turkey. Mammals that relish the berries include deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, and mice. Deer and beaver eat the twigs, bark, and leaves. Many animals use this shrub for cover.

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Similar Species
About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.