Viburnum rafinesquianum (Downy Arrow-wood)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Adoxaceae (Moschatel)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; dry to moist sandy or rocky soil; hardwood and mixed forest understory, thickets
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 10 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Rounded flower clusters, ¾ to 2¼ inches across, at tips of one-year old branches. Flowers are creamy white, about ¼ inch across, bell to saucer-shaped with 5 broad, rounded lobes. In the center are 5 long, pale yellow-tipped stamens and a single style.

[photo of cluster from the side] The calyx cupping the flower has a short tube and 5 short, triangular lobes. The calyx and flower stalks are mostly smooth.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf and stipules] Leaves are simple and opposite, the blades mostly egg-shaped, 1½ to 3 inches long, 1 to 2 inches wide, coarsely toothed, tapered to a point and rounded at the base, on a stalk 1/8 to ½ inch long. At the base of the stalk is a pair of slender, nearly thread-like appendages (stipules).

[photo of leaf hairs] The upper surface is dark green with sparse hairs, lower surface paler and hairy, sometimes hairy just along the veins. Main stems are multiple from base, notably slender and straight, bark brownish gray to gray, mostly smooth though rougher at the base, the largest stems only 1 to 1¼ inch diameter.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Mature fruit is an egg-shaped, somewhat flattened, ¼ to ½ inch long, berry-like drupe, nearly black when ripe with a single seed inside.


Downy Arrow-wood is common in forest understories and along woodland margins. In heavier shade it is somewhat sparse but in the open can form dense, shrubby thickets. It is similar to the Southern Arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum), which is not native in Minnesota but more common as a landscape shrub and is generally larger with nearly hairless leaves, longer leaf stalks, heavier fruit clusters, and lacks the stipules at the base of the leaf stalk. As the common name suggests, both are noted or their narrow, straight stem that were preferred for making arrows by native Americans. There are two varieties of V. rafinesquianum, both found in Minnesota. While the differences are not always obvious, var. rafinesquianum has shorter leaf stalks and is more consistently hairy on the lower leaf surface, where in var. affine, the underside hairs are more restricted to the veins and the leaf stalks are consistently longer.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Becker counties, MN, and in North Dakota. Pollinator photos courtesy Heather Holm.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Marisa - Lake County near Silver Creek
on: 2016-03-23 10:37:34

I found a quite a few of these growing near Highway 3 / Silver Creek in Lake County last year. I was disappointed, since I originally thought they were (edible) nannyberries - but they are still very pretty!

Posted by: Pat W - Pillager
on: 2017-12-28 22:46:49

Growing in my yard area. Since I have removed almost fifty large oak trees on my 1&1/2 acres, the under-story is now recovering and am seeing many new plants that couldn't exist before.

Posted by: Lea K - St. Cloud
on: 2018-05-14 20:23:14

I believe this is what is in my backyard. I bought the house over the winter, so I am discovering many new things! My question is about the fruit. Is it edible/poisonous and if edible, do they taste good?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-05-14 20:46:09

Fruit is not edible except to birds and wildlife.

Posted by: Larry - North of Grand Rapids
on: 2018-06-05 20:19:25

I have several in my woodlot,Smell the flowers!

Posted by: Gary - Carlton
on: 2019-03-03 22:15:07

Southern Arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum) was sold several years ago as Viburnum rafinesquianum by the county SWCD. Because the plants were dormant there was no way to know at the time that the species id was wrong. Who knows what the seed source was? Maybe the blue Muffin cultivar? I do have genuine Viburnum rafinesquianum growing naturally on my property.

Posted by: Kathy - Evansville
on: 2019-06-13 14:25:57

Several bushes in flower growing along a west-facing lakeshore under an overstory of oak and basswood.

Posted by: Cole - Crow Wing County
on: 2021-07-06 14:55:05

I see a lot underneath dense forest cover along walking paths in Crow Wing County. Was able to identify with help from Seek app on phone

Posted by: Luciearl - Fairview Twp, Cass county
on: 2022-09-02 03:54:50

Took me awhile to get an ID on this. Found a few of these in my wooded area.

Posted by: Donna Crider - Aitkin County, Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge
on: 2023-09-06 12:08:08

Found growing along the Wildlife Drive.

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