Today after work I drove up to Tamworth, NH to deliver the fruit I had forgotten to deliver on Sunday. It was kinduva long drive, but the weather was gorgeous, and the mountains were beautiful. I noted some hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) in bloom, but I was kinda looking for it.
Last week one of my co-workers was asking about a bush he had seen in the woods near his house. He drew a picture of it on his whiteboard, and my first thought was “hobblebush” – but I dismissed that. It doesn’t bloom in April. Except that it did this year. Four weeks early as compared to my previous observations. I asked him to bring in a sample, and he did today. It was hobblebush all right.
Some hobblebush grows near the spring in Canterbury where I fill my water bottles. I’ll try to stop there tomorrow and fill up and take some photos. In the meantime, here’s one I took in 2008:
This is actually the photo used in the Wikipedia article on the plant.. However I took it with my old camera, and I have acquired new skills since it was taken. This photo is almost painful for me to look at. Maybe tomorrow I can do better.
The first time I ever came across this plant was on a hike to the top of Mount Cardigan in Bristol, NH. I was wondering what it was when up the trail came a hiker who looked like he might be knowledgeable. So I asked him, and he was, yay!
Hobblebush has both sterile and fertile flowers. The large ones around the edge are sterile, and the tiny ones clustered in the center have both male and female parts. The other cool thing about this plant is that the branches bow towards the ground, and if they touch, they sometimes take root, leaving a hoop – perfect for tripping an unwary hiker or a horse. Thus the name.
My friend at work was asking if it was edible, and I told him I thought it was, but I was not 100% sure. Seems like I’ve read that all Viburnums are edible (though not all are palatable). I also told him that since I wasn’t sure it was edible, and since I didn’t know which part was edible, I would not put any in my mouth without looking it up. I just now looked it up in my Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants book, and though it doesn’t say all viburnums are edible, it does list hobblebush as having edible fruit (good for nibbling and for jelly). Peterson calls it V. alnifolium though, so I had to make sure that those are synonymns – and they are. Another synonym is V grandifolium. The USDA Plants Database uses V. lantanoides as the canonical name. Peterson also notes that it’s in bloom from May-June, and yet… it bloomed in April this year.