Plant Profiles Hobblebush

The Hobblebush is a perennial shrub from the family Caprifoliaceae. It is sometimes called Witch hobble or Moosewood. The scientific classification is Viburnum lantanoides. This shrub grows to an impressive six to twelve feet in height. The pendulous (loosely hanging or swaying) branches take root wherever they can touch the ground. Walkers and animals can easily trip over the obstacles that these rooted branches create. That is where their common name comes from. The Hobblebush is in the same family as the honeysuckle.

Large clusters of pink and white flowers bloom on the Hobblebush during the months of May and June. The blooms on the outside of the clusters are a lot larger than the inside blooms. They range from three to five centimeters across. The entire cluster of flowers measures about ten centimeters across. The bloom cluster has large leaves that are serrated and range from ten to twenty centimeters long. The Hobblebush is warty  and has fruit which is red and is called a drupe (a fruit where a single hard stone is enclosed in the center of the fruit) The fruit turns black when it gets ripe. The bark of the Hobblebush is a grayish brown color.

Nectar is provided by the flower for the Spring Azure butterfly. Birds and mammals feed on its fruit, leaves and twigs. The large showy blooms that run along the edge of the cluster are sterile. The inside flowers have both female and male parts and are much smaller.

The Hobblebush produces a heavy crop of berries. These are used to feed grouse, Swainson’s thrush, pine grosbeak and other birds. Since the crop of berries disappear quickly after growing it is assumed that they have recently become a favoured berry by some of the birds.

The Hobblebush grows from seed. The seeds need to be mashed by hand to break up the fruit and must be planted about two inches apart. They should be planted at a depth of one-quarter inch. The seeds take about two years to germinate. They should have light shade and be mulched. If any germinate the first year they need to be transplanted to a different bed under a light shade. Again mulching is recommended.

The Hobblebush is found in Canada and the eastern part of the United States. It ranges from Georgia to the mountains of Canada. Rich, wet, acidic woods, swamps and stream banks are the preferred habitat of the Hobblebush.