QI have a shrub with a leaf that reminds me of a maple but it has red berries. What is it? -- Emily Patten, Highland Park AYour plant is European cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus), a deciduous multistemmed shrub that grows up to 12 feet in height and that often becomes wider than it is tall. This easy-to-grow, winter-hardy shrub is adaptable to different soil types and sun conditions but prefers full sun and moist soil. While many viburnums have elliptical leaves, a few species, including mapleleaf viburnum (V. acerifolium), Sargent viburnum (V. sargentii) and American cranberry bush viburnum (V. trilobum), have maplelike leaves with three lobes and fruits that ripen in fall. While these species have similar characteristics that can make it hard to distinguish among them, it is important to identify which variety you are growing. European cranberry bush viburnum is considered an invasive plant in the Chicago region. The Chicago Botanic Garden recommends removing it from cultivated gardens to prevent its unwanted spread to natural areas, where its robust nature and ability to reseed could allow it to out-compete and replace native plants. When invasive plants alter the balance of life, they can negatively affect everything from soil composition to the animals and pollinators that depend on food and shelter that native plants provide. Good alternatives are two Midwestern native plants: American cranberry bush viburnum and cultivated varieties of arrow-wood viburnum (V. dentatum cvs.).
Robin Carlson/Chicago Botanic Garden
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