I found a dozen of these small trees in a local park that is just an overgrown homestead. The leaves look something like an elder but the flower clusters surrounded by white, four petaled false flowers are completely unknown to me. What species is this?

flower close-up flowers along branch

Location: Shenandoah valley in central Virginia, U.S.A.

  • Sandy soil on inside of a sharp curve of the South River, just above the flood plain. This area has been occupied by people, for a couple hundred years, so this could very well be a cultivated plant.
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    $\begingroup$ Please add your location. Most species IDs require knowledge of the general location(e.g., country, region, state, etc.) and preferably info about the surrounding habitat. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 3:37
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    $\begingroup$ The location is the Shenandoah valley in central Virginia, U.S.A., sandy soil in side a sharp curve of the South River, just above the flood plain. This area has been occupied by people, for a couple hundred years, so this could very well be an escaped garden plant. $\endgroup$
    – jpopelish
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Brilliant photographs with focusing details. $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


This is very likely some species of Viburnum.

Viburnum is a genus of about 150–175 species of shrubs in the Adoxaceae family that are primarilly native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

All species of viburnum (as far as I know) have opposite leaves, as does the specimen in the picture.

Many species of Viburnums bloom in white in the last part of April through early May, and typically you have to pay attention to flower shape and often, more importantly, the leaf shape to differentiate species.

Without location information, an exact species ID is not guaranteed, but your specimen looks very similar to:

Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum)


Source: Dave's Garden

enter image description here

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

This species produces two rows of white flower clusters, with both small and large flowers, along the stem.

According to Wikipedia: Viburnum plicatum is a popular ornamental plant, both in its native area and in various temperate regions.

Based on the "double" flower types of your specimen, it's likely V. plicatum f. tomentosum:

Cultivars with wild-type flowerhead structure are sometimes described as a separate botanical form V. plicatum f. tomentosum. They include 'Cascade', 'Lanarth' and 'Rowallane'.2[3] Two cultivars in this group, 'Mariesii'[5] and 'Pink Beauty',[6] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

Habit: A deciduous, multi-stemmed medium-sized shrub that typically reaches 2.5 3 m tall. [Source].

Leaf: ovate, 5-10 cm long, up to 5 cm wide; pointed apex and rounded leaf base; serrated leaf margin; 8 to 12 pairs of veins; pubescent underside; dark green leaf color. [Source].

Flowers: individual flowers form a large (up to 10 cm diameter) flat-topped cyme composed of showy infertile flowers surrounding unshowy fertile flowers. Blooms in May. [Source].

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    $\begingroup$ Viburnum is absolutely right. Without location, species will be difficult. And as it is a park, it is probably a cultivar anyway. $\endgroup$
    – RHA
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ @RHA Right. Which is why I picked a common cultivar as the best guess :p. Of course it couldn't be easy and just be one of the ones i know well (rafinesquianum, acerfolium, prunifolium, rufidulum, etc), but for doing a 5 min search without location info, I'd say this is a pretty good guess at species! $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ It also isn't any European species I know. I am guessing this is an American/Canadian location. $\endgroup$
    – RHA
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 12:14

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