Hobblebush on Fire
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.