Wayfaring tree – Viburnum lantana

Trees & ShrubsFlowering Trees & Shrubs – Wayfaring-tree / Viburnum lantana

Viburnum LANTANA.—Wayfaring Tree. Europe (Native to Britain). This is a native species of large bush, or almost tree growth, with rugose, oblong, serrated leaves, and large, flat cymes of white flowers appearing in May and June. The whole tree is usually covered with a scaly tomentum, while the fruit is a black flattened drupe. (Webster)

(See flowering Trees & Shrubs for a list of Viburnum)

(also see the similar Guelder Rose – Viburnum opulus)

Viburnum lantana (wayfarer or wayfaring tree) is a species of Viburnum, native to central, southern and western Europe (north to Yorkshire in England), northwest Africa, and south-western Asia. The vigorous deciduous European treelike shrub is common along waysides.

It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 4–5 m tall. The leaves are opposite, simple oval to lanceolate, 6–13 cm wide and 4–9 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin; they are densely downy on the underside, less so on the upper surface. The hermaphrodite flowers are small (5 mm), creamy-white, produced in dense cymes 4–10 cm width at the top of the stems; they are produced in early summer, and pollinated by insects. The fruit is an oblong drupe 8 mm long, green at first, turning red, then finally black at full maturity, and contains a single seed. The seeds are dispersed when birds eat the fruit, then deposit the seeds in another location in their droppings.

It is commonly grown as an ornamental plant for its flowers and berries, growing best on alkaline soils. A number of cultivars have been selected, including ‘Aureum’, with yellow leaves in spring.

The fruit is mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhoea if consumed in large quantities

An older name for the plant is hoarwithy. “Hoar” means grey-haired and refers to the hairs under the leaves, and “withy” means a pliant stem. Wikipedia

The Wayfaring tree from, Wayside and Woodland Trees A POCKET GUIDE TO THE BRITISH SYLVA BY EDWARD STEP, F.L.S.

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Flowering Trees & Shrubs Viburnum lantana (wayfarer or wayfaring tree) Wayfaring-tree flower detail

The Wayfaring-tree has a number of names by which it is known locally, but the one we have used is generally known, though it may have the disadvantage of being a comparatively modern one whose parentage is known to us. The origin of most of these popular names is lost in the mists of antiquity. John Gerarde, whose “Herbal” was published in 1597, noting its fondness for roadside hedges and thickets, called it Wayfaring-tree, or Wayfaringman’s-tree. Thereupon Parkinson, nearly half a century later, remarks: “Gerard calleth it in English the Wayfaring tree, but I know no travailer doth take either pleasure or profit by it more than by any other hedge trees.” Our own experience serves to prove that Wayfarers, as a class, have improved since Parkinson’s day, for we have frequently been questioned in the Surrey chalk-districts, at various seasons, respecting the bold plant; in winter showing its large naked buds, all rough with starry hairs, which keep off frost, as well as do the many scales and thick varnish of Horse-chestnut buds; in summer the broad, hairy leaves, looking as dusty as a miller’s coat, whilst above them spread the slightly rounded heads of white flowers; later, when the flowers are succeeded by bunches of glowing coral beads, that in autumn become beads of jet. It is not confined to the chalk-hills, but as far north as Yorkshire may be looked for wherever the soil is dry, though it finds this condition best on the chalk, and is there especially abundant. It is not indigenous in either Scotland or Ireland.

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Viburnum LANTANA — Wayfaring Tree

Though it grows to a height of twenty feet in places, it can never properly be called a tree. Its downy stems are never very stout. They branch a good deal, and it should be noted that the branches are always given off in pairs, a branch from each side of the stem at exactly the same height; the leaves are produced in the same order. These leaves, which are three or four inches in length, are much wrinkled, heart-shaped, with a blunt, small end, white beneath, and the edges very finely toothed. The flower-cluster is a cyme, and it should be noted that all the white flowers comprised in it are of the same size and form, the corollas being funnel-shaped, with five lobes, and the five stamens are extruded from the mouth. The flowers, which are jointed to the stalks, are out in May and June, and the flattened oval fruits that follow are, as already stated, at first red, then black.

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Flowering Trees & Shrubs Viburnum lantana (wayfarer or wayfaring tree)

The local names for this shrub include Mealy-tree, Whipcrop, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, Coventree, Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, Twist-wood, White-wood. Mealy-tree, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, and White-wood all have obvious reference to the appearance of the young shoots and leaves, due to the presence of the white hairs with which they are covered. Lithe-wort and Lithy-tree, also Twist-wood and Whipcrop, indicate the supple and elastic character of the branches, which are often used instead of Withy to bind up a bundle of sticks or vegetables, or to make a hoop for a gate-fastener. In Germany the shoots, when only a year old, are used in basket-weaving, and, when a year or two older, serve for pipe-stems.