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Viburnum dilatatum (linden viburnum)

Linden viburnum is a large shrub with neat, round leaves and flat heads of small white flowers followed by red, or sometimes yellow, fleshy berries.

Viburnum dilatatum in Osaka Prefectural Flower Garden, Osaka, Japan

Viburnum dilatatum in Osaka Prefectural Flower Garden, Osaka, Japan (Photo: Licensed under CC by 3.0)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Viburnum dilatatum Thunb.

Common name: 

linden viburnum, linden arrow wood

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria, but not considered to be at risk in the wild.

Habitat: 

Scrub on hills and low mountains.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, traditional medicine.

Known hazards: 

Raw berries inedible; cooked berries edible but best avoided. Birds are slow to eat them in winter.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Dipsacales
Family: 
Adoxaceae
Genus: Viburnum

About this species

Viburnum dilatatum is a common shrub in the lowlands and foothills of mountains in Japan, China and South Korea. The leaves are shaped like those of a lime tree (Tilia species), with conspicuous parallel veins, and often turn red or purple in the autumn. The berries are slightly elongated, with a dark spot (the remains of the flower) at the tip. Both red-fruited and yellow-fruited forms are cultivated.

Linden viburnum was introduced into cultivation in Europe from Japan in 1875. It is more commonly cultivated in North America, where several cultivars have been selected. 

Synonym: 

Viburnum dilatatum var. macrophyllum

Genus: 
Viburnum

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Native to Japan and northern China.

Description

Overview: Linden viburnum is a branching shrub growing up to 3 m tall.

Leaves: The leaves, which are held opposite each other on the stem, are broadly ovate or egg-shaped, finely and evenly toothed, 3-12 cm long and 2-8 cm wide. The leaves have around seven pairs of parallel veins, the lower pairs branching again, and are often purplish in spring, turning red or purple in autumn. 

Viburnum dilatatum painted by W.H. Fitch, taken from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

Flowers: The small, pure-white flowers are borne in flat or slightly rounded heads.

Fruits: The berries are ovoid, about 5 mm long and are red (or yellow in the form Viburnum dilatatum f. xanthocarpum).

Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants.

Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Threats & Conservation

There is no indication that Viburnum dilatatum is threatened in the wild. It is commonly cultivated in North America. Samples of V. dilatatum seeds have been stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank as an ex situ conservation measure.

Uses

Popular as an ornamental for shrubberies, windbreaks or light shade in open woodland, linden viburnum is grown particularly for its colourful berries in the autumn. The leaves, stems and berries are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The berries are cooked to make a soup used in the treatment of snake bite, dysentery and as a vermifuge.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two

Cultivation

Linden viburnum can be grown easily in good soil with reasonable drainage. Other viburnums such as Viburnum opulus (guelder rose) tolerate waterlogged soil.

This species at Kew

Viburnum dilatatum is grown in the area between the Palm House and King William's Temple at Kew. At Wakehurst, V. dilatatum can be seen growing on the slope above the study centre in Westwood Valley.

Preserved specimens of V. dilatatum are held in the Herbarium, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. The details of one of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

The Economic Botany Collection contains samples of leaves and wood from V. dilatatum, which are available to researchers by appointment.

References and credits

Anon (1985). Woody Plants of Japan (illustrated). Yama-kai, Tokyo, Japan.

Bean, W. J. (1980). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles (8th edition revised). John Murray, London.

Duke, J.A. & Ayensu, E.S. (1985). Medicinal plants of China, Vol. 1. Reference Publications, Algonac, Michigan.

The Plant List, Version 1 (2010). Viburnum dilatatum. Available online (accessed 26 January 2011).

Zhong Guo Yao Cai Gong Si (Chinese Herbal Materia Medica State Company) (1994). Synopsis of Traditional Chinese Medicine Resources. Traditional Chinese Medica Resource Series, Science Press.

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Steve Davis and Rui Fang (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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