Plant of the Week: Blackhaw Viburnum

Photo by Friends of the High Line

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Viburnum prunifolium – commonly called blackhaw viburnum – is a great plant selection for a habitat garden. It's relatively carefree and tolerates partial to full sun and dry to moist soils. You will find this plant in woodlands, thickets, and along stream banks in the eastern United States.

Bearing some of the largest berries in its genus, Viburnum prunifolium is just one of more than 150 unique species of woody plants found along the High Line. This North American native shrub has a dense branching habit that creates structure and shelter for birds and reaches 15 feet in height. This Viburnum species is particularly prized for its reddish-purple fall foliage and berries. These oval-shaped blueberries are visible throughout the fall and winter. Viburnum prunifolium is a favorite winter treat for migrating songbirds, who help disperse the single seed inside each berry.

The berries contain high levels of fat that help migrating birds survive their winter voyage south. Native Americans also developed a liking for the haws or berries of Viburnum prunifolium, and used it as a food and medicinal source for hundreds of years. The bark was used to brew a tea that helped with menstrual cramps, recovery from childbirth, and the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The bark contains high concentrations of the active compound salicin, which is chemically related to aspirin. A second medicinal compound found in the bark, copoletin, has both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Planting tip: Plant Viburnum prunifolium in groups of two or three, as it requires cross-pollination for fruit set. It will ensure a much better fall performance of these showy berries while also creating a nice habitat for birds.


You can find blackhaw viburnum in the Chelsea Thicket, tucked just behind the bench at West 20th Street.

Download our February bloom list.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projectsbecome a member of Friends of the High Line today!

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