Nannyberry (Lentago)

The Nannyberry (Lentago) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Nannyberry (Lentago) has green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with a smattering of conspicuous red fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Nannyberry (Lentago) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Nannyberry (Lentago) will reach up to 28 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 28 feet.

The Nannyberry (Lentago) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Nannyberry is shade-tolerant species useful in landscape plantings as shrub borders, taller barriers, hedges, and windbreaks. It produces good seasonal displays of flowers, fruits, and fall leaf color and the fruit are eaten by many species of birds and wildlife. Cultivars are not commonly available.

General Characteristics

General: Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). Native, multi-stemmed shrubs or small trees growing to 9 m high, somewhat open at maturity and leggy at the base, the crown irregular to rounded, often suckering at the base; bark dark gray to black, forming a pattern of small blocks. Leaves are deciduous, simple, opposite, elliptic-obovate to ovate, 5-10 cm long, long-pointed, glabrous or nearly so on both sides, the petiole with a wavy-winged margin, margins finely toothed; mature foliage dark glossy, green, becoming deep maroon to red in the fall. Flowers are small, all bisexual, creamy white, in flat-topped clusters 5-12 cm wide. Fruit in hanging clusters, berry-like (a drupe), oval to nearly round, 10-15 mm long, changing from green to yellow, pink, rose and finally to blue-black, sweet and edible, with an odor of wet sheep wool when ripe and rotting, with a single, smooth, nearly flat stone.

Required Growing Conditions

Across northeastern North America, from New Brunswick and Quebec to Saskatchewan, south to Colorado and Nebraska (rare), Missouri (extinct), West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, rare in the Appalachians in Maryland and Virginia and apparently disjunct in Georgia. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. A detailed distribution map is also provided by Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (2000).

Adaptation Common habitats for nannyberry are low woods, swamp borders, and rich valleys at or near streambanks, usually in rich loam to clay-loam soil. It also occurs in moist soil of wooded slopes and other upland sites, sometimes even in sandy or rocky soil. It is a shade-tolerant understory shrub, but reaches relatively larger size in partial openings or along edges. Flowering occurs in May-June and fruits in July–September.

Cultivation and Care

Reproduction is primarily by seed. Suckering from the base can replace and add to main stems. The “leggy” habit sometimes allows lower branches to fall over – they root where touching the ground.

General Upkeep and Control

Nannyberry is one of the more shade-tolerant woody plants but it also grows well in open sites. It is tolerant of both moist and dry soils. It is easily transplanted and established and can be propagated by cuttings. Although the growth habit is primarily a multi-stemmed shrub, it can be maintained as a small tree by pruning stems and removing basal suckers. Pests & Potential Problems Nannyberry is susceptible to powdery mildew where air circulation is not good. Infected plants are not killed but the leaves can be discolored and disfigured in late summer and fall.

Viburnum leaf beetle. The viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni), native to Europe and Asia, was first encountered in North America in 1947, perhaps arriving earlier from Europe on nursery plants. It received little notice until 1978, when it caused severe defoliation of ornamental viburnums in Ontario and Quebec. It has now reached western New York and Maine and become a concern in urban landscapes and nurseries.

The adult and the larva “skeletonize” leaves by feeding on the leaves between the midrib and larger veins. Plants, which have been defoliated for 2-3 consecutive years, may be killed. The preferred host is Viburnum opulus and its selections; lesser damage is caused to V. lantana and V. acerifolium, V. dentatum, V. lentago, and V. rafinesquianum. Other species, particularly V. rhytidophyllum and V. carlesii, are relatively unaffected.

The entire life cycle of the viburnum leaf beetle takes about 8-10 weeks. Larvae hatch in early May and feed on the viburnum leaves throughout the larval period, which lasts 4-5 weeks. The larvae pupate in the soil. The adults (4.5-6.5 mm long, brown) appear by mid-July and continue eating the leaves, then mate and lay over-wintering eggs on the twigs. Egg-laying holes are in a straight line on the underside of the current season's growth.

Chemical control of the viburnum leaf beetle is best applied to young larvae, because adults will fly away or drop to the ground if disturbed. If over-wintering egg sites are found, affected wood should be pruned and destroyed before the eggs hatch. Examine upper and lower leaf surfaces for feeding larvae. Potential biological control mechanisms are being studied.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 28
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 14
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–7 pH
Precipitation Range 38–38 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–1200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 14
Minimum Frost-Free Days 128 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA