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Viburnum obovatum (vye-BER-num ah-boe-VAY-tum) ‘Walter’
COMMON NAMES: Walter’s viburnum, black haw viburnum, small-leaf viburnum
HABIT: Upright, spreading, weeping, or dwarf small tree or shrub. It is difficult to determine which form you are buying by simply looking at the plant. The only way to determine the ultimate height and shape of the plant is to know the original source of the plant material. The evergreen leaves vary from very small to medium sized, glossy, leathery and dark green - also fragrant when crushed. The winter or spring flowers occur at the branch tips before new growth emerges. Flowers can cover the plant with white blooms for about 2 or three weeks. Fruits are small drupes that turn from red to black during maturation. It has stiff and short branches. Typically multi-trunked or clumping and can form colonies of plants. May be evergreen or semi-deciduous in mid-winter. The glossy, leathery, dark green leaves of are opposite, small, from 1-2 inches long. Leaves are fragrant when crushed. Bark is smooth but may be slightly plated on older trunks. The fruit is a small drupe that matures dark blue or black. The twigs and stems are gray or silver in color. The plant can be completely covered in flowers when in full bloom. Height: 8 to 25 feet. Spread: 6 to 10 feet. White flowers for 2-3 weeks.
CULTURE: Tolerates acid to alkaline well-drained to occasionally wet soil. Can be planted in partial shade but will bloom more profusely in full sun. All varieties and cultivars appear to have low drought tolerance when first planted and when grown in containers. It usually does not require supplemental irrigation later, except during the driest of months. It can produce suckers that can be easily controlled. Clip the plant as desired or let it grow wild as it will not easily become unruly. Propagation is from cuttings or seeds. It will grow well on a site that receives full sun or shade. It is native to acidic wetland forests that are frequently inundated for a period of time during the year, but it tolerates a broad range of growing conditions including moderate drought. Origin: Florida; Southeastern. Zone: 7 - 10.
PROBLEMS: Unfortunately, it is not widely available. Rhizoctonia solani (root rot) under wet feet conditions. No pests or diseases are of major concern.
USES: Small tree; foundation; hedge; massing shrub; roadway; screen; specimen; wildlife attractant. It may be utilized in the landscape as a fine-textured, clipped hedge or tall screen. Small leaves make it a great candidate for shearing into a topiary, espalier or formal hedge. Older specimens can be trained into small trees with several trunks.
NOTES: V. obovatum ‘Mrs. Schiller’s Delight’ is a dwarf cultivar that grows to 2-4 feet with a similar spread. The dwarf V. obovatum ‘Densa’ grows to 5 –6 feet; ‘Rieflers Densa’ is similar in size to ‘Densa’ but more adapted to wet locations. Walter’s viburnum ‘Withlacoochee’ has an open, but uniform growth pattern, growing to a maximum height of 14 feet; however it can be kept trimmed as a 6-7 foot hedge. It has good drought tolerance but may suffer occasional dieback in extreme drought. Viburnum obovatum ‘Whorled class’ is so called because it has 3 leaves growing per node, giving it a whorled appearance. The foliage turns bronze in the autumn. It is a very slow grower and can be difficult to find in the nurseries. ’Select’ has a more upright habit than many of the other dwarf cultivars.