Blackhaw, of some sort

blackhaw 21.JPG

Shortly before we had found the hyacinths I wrote about two days ago, Libby and I (well, Libby, actually) spotted this gorgeous cluster of little white flowers in the same part of the forest. We were stumbling down the rocky creek bed, on our way to the Old Man of the Forest, when Libby pointed to the branches above us. And there were several dozen clusters of these white flowers on display.

You can’t really tell from this picture, but the tree is clinging to a steep slope beside the creek. I had to get across the creek (not so wide at this point) and reach into the branches to pull down a cluster of the flowers to photograph. Note those glossy, toothed leaves. I also took a picture of the bark on the trunk.

blackhaw bark1.JPG

I thought I was being clever by collecting enuf distinguishing material to allow me to identify the tree once I was back home in suburbia. I have a number of tree identification books on the shelf (don’t we all?), so I thought this would be a simple task. But not so, it turns out.

I’ve narrowed it down to being a blackhaw, and the book Trees of Missouri, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation, lists two that are commonly found in our great state, both of which have ranges that encompass Roundrock. The book says that one, the Southern Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum), has glossy leaves while the other, simply Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium), has dull leaves. Well, that seemed to settle the matter. But the Conservation website says that V. prunifolium has glossy leaves. So which one is Pablo to believe?

So Pablo went to the internet. I really thought that having a shot of the bark would solve the mystery. I think there is sufficient consistency of leaf description on reputable internet sites to allow me to conclude that this is a Southern Blackhaw. (I never did find any bark identification references, and for all I know, both kinds may have similar bark.) Of course, some list it as a small tree while others consider it a large shrub.

But what I also found were the many, many names this tree goes by. Here are some of them:

  • Rusty Blackhaw
  • Downy Viburnum
  • Rusty Nanntyberry
  • Nannyberry (yes, it’s a close relative of those nannyberries we planted)
  • Bluehaw
  • Wild Raisin

I’ll add another name to the list for this tree:

  • my neighbor’s

This tree is growing in that uncertain area on my southern boundary that is not fenced, so it is not clear just where the property line runs. This tree could be on my land, or it could be on the neighbor’s land. I can’t say for sure. But as with the walnuts that I was once certain did not grow in my forest (and yet appear nearly everywhere now that I’m looking), it is possible that there are more blackhaws, of whatever sort, growing in my woods. They are known to grow in thickets.

As I’ve said before, I love the fact that even though I’ve been coming to these woods for the better part of a decade, there are still surprises waiting for me.

Missouri calendar:

  • Black locust trees are in bloom.
  • Bluegill begin spawning.

2 Responses to “Blackhaw, of some sort”

  1. rcwbiologist Says:

    Nature’s surprises are grand aren’t they. And you’ve just done a great job of explaining why biologists use genus and species names for flora and fauna and not so much common names. In many instances, like your example, species of flora will have several different common names. That isn’t so with species of fauna. Cougar, mountain lion, and puma is one I can think of. There aren’t too many others. I wonder why that is?

  2. Silvia / Salix Says:

    What a beautiful flower cluster. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blackhaw. At first I thought it was a hawthorn, but looking closer, it’s definately not. Curious now what the flower cluster will turn into in the autumn, what color the berries will be?

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