Hobblebush, A Native Shrub That’s Easy To Love: Wildflower Wednesday

– Posted in: Native/Invasive, Plant info

At first glance, I thought it was a hydrangea. But I don’t know of any hydrangea that blooms with the trilliums. And the large, exquisitely puckered leaves were unlike any hydrangea leaf I’d ever seen.

hobblebush flower and leaf

The white flowers and puckered leaves of hobblebush complement the spring ephemerals on the forest floor.

Turns out it was a viburnum–Viburnum lantanoides–to be precise. This native shrub likes it cool and moist–perfect for northern climates. It’s called hobblebush because its branches dip low and root where they touch the ground, making a tripping hazard for anyone walking through.
hobblebush suckering habit

These shrublets are all connected underground, “hobbling” the unsuspecting passerby.

Or so it is said. While I did find many instances of suckering, it never seemed like much of a tripping hazard to me. And William Cullina states in Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines that “give it a favored place in the garden, and it is satisfied to remain a domed clump with nary an errant sucker to be seen.” Certainly many a plant has been improved merely by giving it improved conditions.

While this is considered a shade plant, the most floriferous ones I saw in the wild were getting plenty of early spring sunshine before the trees had leafed out.

hobblebush on creek bank

On the far bank of the creek, a hobblebush is blooming well in the spring sunshine.

Hobblebush is a host plant for the caterpillars of the spring azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon). Several sources say that it is a food source for mammals, which, being translated, means deer eat it. The steep glen where I found hobblebush and many other native ephemerals growing seems to be avoided by deer, possibly because it is not only steep, but close to the road. Their loss is my gain.

Hobblebush blooms in May, along with numerous other native plants, but June doesn’t have nearly as many native bloomers, so I thought I’d share this beautiful shrub even though its bloom has long been over.

Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogasphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

commonweeder July 10, 2015, 8:55 am

This is a wonderful shrub. I just read that it can grow in swampy places; my new garden is very wet and I am concentrating on wet-loving natives. Wish me luck.

Mahée Ferlini July 9, 2015, 2:15 pm

What a nice surprise to find walking through the woods. I’ll have to keep a watchful eye out for it when I’m in the area. Thank you so much for the great read!

Donna@Gardens Eye View July 5, 2015, 11:24 am

Still catching up with reading and this is an amazing wildflower Kathy…never saw one here but I will pay attention now around the trillium time….I am thinking I must find one for my garden.

Jane / MulchMaid June 29, 2015, 7:54 pm

What a pretty shrub to find in the wild. The flower looks quite “cultivated”, in fact. I have never seen it out here on the west coast, but that’s not evidence of much except the fact that I should get out in the woods more often.

Kathy Purdy July 1, 2015, 2:14 pm

Jane, I don’t think it is native to the west coast, so it isn’t likely you would come across it.

Dee Nash June 29, 2015, 11:39 am

I love learning about new shrubs. Viburnums are super cool.~~Dee

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern June 29, 2015, 8:24 am

A new one to me! (Not easy to do.) Thank you for this wonderful introduction. I have to see if it is listed in Michael Dirr’s “Viburnums” and if it susceptible to the Viburnum leaf beetle as most of our beautiful natives sadly are. Love those puckery leaves!

Frank June 28, 2015, 3:02 pm

I always learn something new here! I’ve seen this shrub a few times out of bloom but never knew it had such an attractive flower. It does look hydrangea-ish!

Lisa at Greenbow June 28, 2015, 10:08 am

What a beauty. Lucky you having it where you can admire it.

Judy Goodell June 28, 2015, 7:17 am

Mystery solved! I saw this bush blooming on a camp road in Northern Maine and took a picture or two. Like you, I thought of a wild hydrangea, but purple and painted trilliums were in bloom.I will e-mail the photos to you, If you respond with an address to send to. I am happy to know the scientific and common name and will leave it in the wild state. There was only one bloom, so it hadn’t hobbled far! Thank you for this timely information!

Laura @ Raise Your Garden June 28, 2015, 6:03 am

Well, I have never heard of the hobblebush but I do so love that name. I live not terribly far from you so I should see some I hope! I love how it can appreciate Northern climates and attracts butterflies. Right now, I’m the proud mom to 2 monarch caterpillar twins! Both are thriving. Such an exciting time of year!!!

Hilda Morrill June 27, 2015, 9:55 pm

Thank you, Kathy. Had never seen this shrub before unless (gasp!) I have forgotten…. I always learn something wonderful from you!

gail eichelberger June 27, 2015, 9:18 pm

Love this pretty shrub! Thank you for sharing it.