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Viburnum obovatum: Walter's Viburnum1

Edward F. Gilman, Teresa Howe, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean 2


Walter's viburnum, in the opinion of some nursery growers, is the very best viburnum for use in central and south Florida. Unfortunately, it is not widely available. It is a shrub or small tree that can grow to a height of about 27 feet. However, there are forms of this plant that are upright, spreading, weeping, or dwarf. It is difficult to determine which form you are buying by simply looking at the plant. The only way to determine the ultimate height and shape of the plant is to know the original source of the plant material. A reputable nursery will know the characteristics of their plants. The evergreen leaves of Walter's viburnum vary from very small to medium sized, glossy, leathery, and dark green. They are also fragrant when crushed. The winter or spring flowers occur in small, convex cymes held at the branch tips before new growth emerges. Flowers can cover the plant with white blooms for about 2 or three weeks. The fruits of this plant are small drupes that turn from red to black during maturation.

Figure 1. Full Form—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum
Figure 1.  Full Form—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum

General Information

Scientific name: Viburnum obovatum

Pronunciation: vye-BER-num ah-boe-VAY-tum

Common name(s): Walter's viburnum, blackhaw

Family: Adoxaceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 7 through 10 (Figure 2)

Planting month for zone 7: year round

Planting month for zone 8: year round

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Planting month for zone 10: year round

Origin: native to the southeastern United States

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: Native

Uses: espalier; superior hedge; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; screen; border; attracts butterflies; residential street tree; small parking lot islands (< 100 square feet in size); medium-sized parking lot islands (100-200 square feet in size); large parking lot islands (> 200 square feet in size)

Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 6 to 27 feet

Spread: 6 to 10 feet

Plant habit: oval

Plant density: dense

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: revolute; serrate

Leaf shape: broadly obovate to oblanceolate

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 1 to 2 inches

Leaf color: dark green and shiny on top, paler green underneath

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Leaf—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum
Figure 3.  Leaf—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum


Flower color: white

Flower characteristic: emerges in clusters on 2"–3" long cymes

Flowering: primarily early spring

Figure 4. Flower—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum
Figure 4.  Flower—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum


Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: ¼ inch

Fruit cover: fleshy drupe

Fruit color: green to red and then finally black when ripe

Fruit characteristic: attracts birds

Fruiting: ripens in late summer

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; no thorns; not particularly showy

Bark: gray and smooth, becoming slightly platy with age

Current year stem/twig color: gray/silver

Current year stem/twig thickness: thin

Figure 5. Bark—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum
Figure 5.  Bark—Viburnum obovatum: Walter's viburnum
Credit: Gritta Hasing


Light requirement: full sun to partial shade

Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay; well-drained to occasionally wet

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: poor

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Walter's viburnum may be utilized in the landscape as a fine-textured, clipped hedge or tall screen. Small leaves make it a great candidate for shearing into a topiary, espalier or formal hedge. Older specimens can be trained into small trees with several trunks. Nurseries can also train young plants to grow in this manner.

Walter's viburnum will grow well in a site that receives full sun or shade. It is native to acidic wetland forests that are frequently inundated for a period of time during the year, but it tolerates a broad range of growing conditions including moderate drought.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.


Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


1. This document is FPS-604, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Teresa Howe, coordinator, research programs/services, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FPS-604

Date: 4/15/2019

      Organism ID


      • Gail Hansen de Chapman