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Hobblebush on Fire

October 10, 2013  |  by Bryan Pfeiffer  |  7 comments  | 

A full season of fall foliage flares from the leaf of a single plant. Find your fireworks on Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides).

This understory gem may be the perfect shrub. It offers food and habitat diversity for nesting birds and other wildlife, and its blooms play a crafty game of deception each spring. Oh, it’s also on fire right now.


In spring, Hobblebush’s white flowers, arranged in clusters along a branch, are rather puny and inelegant. So the plant surrounds each cluster with a ring of larger, showier paper-white blooms. These flowers are infertile impostors; they do not produce fruits, but look good enough to attract insect pollinators toward the genuine flowers, which go on to produce bursts of apple-red fruits.

But in autumn the plant’s leaves offer a full spectrum of foliage. Here below is proof: the leaves in this montage below I photographed on October 13, 2019, during a 10-mile hike in the Noyes Pond Basin in Vermont’s Groton State Forest. (These are iPhone shots on the fly compiled into a montage in PhotoShop.)

Or scroll through this iNaturalist display of Hobblebush (including next year’s leaf and flower buds) during the months of October through December, from Maine to the Carolinas. (Here’s one of my favorites, from Sue Elliot in Vermont, who also photographed this one a day later.)

Better yet, go climb a mountain to claim your season of fall foliage — there at your feet.



  1. Brian Aust says:

    I love how they start to get tinged with purple right around the passage of summer’s apex. They mark the tipping point of the season, like the first cicadas and Soldidago species, but then hold their leaves until near the end of autumn.

  2. Leda Beth Gray says:

    Love this, thanks for posting! The Gillian Welsh was great, photos wonderful. I was thinking I better get this for our yard but it sounds like it wants high up in the mountains(?) Go Redwings and Tigers!!

  3. Beautiful, I Love Monheagan!

  4. Charlotte Hewson says:

    One of my very favorite plants. Years ago I did a slide show on the Hobble Bush’s many faces. Gorgeous display. Charlie

  5. mitymous says:

    I love the moosewood, and was admiring their the extravaganza yesterday.

  6. Linda Wurm says:

    My all time favorite forest shrub! So yellow rumps are here in MAine in serious number and I recognize them. We also had aflock of sand hill cranes spend the night in the marsh, Thought for sure some duck hunter had a very strange call to lure some ducks. Then we saw them land with their “friends”. Awesome moment.
    We had a wonderful time on Monhegan!

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