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Wayfaring (Viburnum lantana)

A small shrub with cream flowers in May

Common name: wayfaring-tree

Scientific name: Viburnum lantana

Family: Caprifoliaceae

UK provenance: native

What does wayfaring-tree look like?

Overview: a deciduous shrub which can reach up to 5m in height.

Leaves: large oval slightly wrinkly looking leaves with round-toothed edges. Leaves are placed opposite each other along the twig. The lower surface is densely covered with soft grey hairs.

Flowers: lots of small identical 5 petalled cream flowers form together in one large flat topped flower head (called an umbel).

Fruits: groups of oval flattened berries which start off red then turn black. Both colours can often be seen together. They are poisonous.

Could be confused with: guelder rose – all the flowers that make up the umbel are the same size whereas those of the guelder rose are larger on the outside with smaller ones in the centre smaller. Guelder rose has palmately lobed leaves. Elder – the leaves of elder are pinnate

Identified in winter by: the pale yellow-green buds are opposite one another and are closely pressed against a slightly hairy twig.

Where to find wayfaring-tree

Wayfaring trees are found in scrub, hedgerows and woodland edges especially those on chalky soils. Look out for the flowers in May.

Value to wildlife

Birds will eat the berries and insects like hoverflies feed on the nectar. The larvae of several moth species will feed on the leaves.

How we use wayfaring-tree

Often planted as an ornamental shrub.


Not currently threatened although the larvae of the viburnum beetle Pyrrhalta viburni will eat the leaves.

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