Monday, June 9, 2014


Arrow-wood with a Silver-spotted Skipper nectaring
     Arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum) is a very adaptable shrub, as long as it gets some sun and isn't too dry. Rightfully it is gaining in popularity as a landscape addition, not just due to its adaptability, but due to its good looks. It ranges from 5'-15' in height, with nice-looking opposite branches bearing toothed leaves, white flowers, and dark blue berries.
     They are blooming right about now, with their blooms attracting a fair amount of insects, despite the flowers frankly not smelling very good. More importantly, the plants themselves are host plants for over a 100 species of caterpillars, which in turn feed so many other birds and bats. The berries are also eaten by a fair number of birds. A great wildlife plant all around.
     The plant derives its name from the fact that some Native American Indian tribes, particularly those without access to reeds, used the stalks for arrow shafts. The stems, especially those young ones suckering from the center of the clump, tend to grow fairly straight. That is an unusual trait among shrubs which native peoples were keen to utilize.

The straight stems used for arrow shafts by some tribes
     Having said that, Arrow-wood is not mentioned in Daniel Moerman's tome "Native American Ethnobotany" (which is considered the authority on the use of plants by native peoples) as a preferred source for arrow shafts. It does however mention that this plant was used by the Ojibwa as an ingredient in smoking concoctions and by the Iroquois as a contraceptive.
     While these days we do not concern ourselves with the ethnobotanical properties of this plant, we can be confident that it is a beautiful, adaptable shrub with many benefits for wildlife. That's enough reason to plant it' I'd say.

No comments:

Post a Comment