Black Haw

This genus of about 150 species of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs and small trees is distributed widely in most temperate and warm areas, especially in Asia and N America. Viburnum opulus is an excellent garden shrub with delightful flowers and early-ripening, brightly colored fruits. Viburnum prunifolium has the largest fruits of any viburnum and brilliant autumn color. It may be grown as a small garden tree if restricted to a single trunk. Common to V. prunifolium and V. opulus is scopoletin, a coumarin that has a sedative effect on the uterus. Viburnum prunifolium also contains salicin, an analgesic that occurs in Salix alba (See, White Willow). The two viburnums are prescribed alternately or together; V. opulus is thought to be weaker in action, and V. prunifolium appears to act more strongly on the uterus. In parts of E USA, the fruits of V. prunifolium have been used for preserves and larger-fruited, palatable clones are grown for fruit production. The fruits of V. opulus and the N American V. trilobum can be used for making preserves and wine.

Deciduous shrub or bushy tree with red-tinged shoots and shiny, ovate leaves, to 8cm (3in) long, which turn red in autumn. White flowers, 8mm (⅜in) across, are produced in flat clusters, to 10cm (4in) across, in later spring and early summer, followed by blue-black, oval fruits, almost 2cm (¾in) long.

Common Name:
Black Haw
Other Names:
Botanical Name:
Viburnum prunifolium
Native Location:
E and eastern C USA
Deep, moist soil in sun or partial shade. Remove dead wood and older stems after flowering. Plants may be damaged by aphids and viburnum beetles, and are prone to honey fungus and leaf spot.
By seed sown in autumn (species only); by greenwood cuttings in summer.
Bark is stripped before leaves change color in autumn, or before leaf buds open in spring, and dried for decoctions, liquid extracts, and tinctures (V. opulus, V. prunifolium), creams (V. opulus), and infusions, elixirs, and powders (V. prunifolium). Fruits are picked when ripe in summer for culinary use.
5-9m (15-28ft)
1-6m (3-20ft)
Parts Used:
Stem bark, root bark, fruits
A bitter, astringent, sedative herb that relaxes spasms, relieves pain, calms nerves, lowers blood pressure, and regulates the uterus.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for painful menstruation, threatened miscarriage, convulsive disorders, hysteria, colic, spasmodic pain in the gall bladder, urinary or digestive tracts, muscular cramps, asthma, and palpitations of nervous origin. Combined with Chamaelirium luteum (See, False Unicorn Root) and Hydrastis canadensis (See, Goldenseal) for threatened miscarriage.
Culinary Uses:
Fruits are eaten raw or made into preserves, sauces, and drinks.
Contraindicated for anyone sensitive or allergic to aspirin.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 403-404