Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Arrow-Wood, VIBURNUM DENTATUM, flowers and leaves

from the May 20, 2012 Newsletter issued from the woods of the Loess Hill Region a few miles east of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

Down in the moist, shadowy bottom of a local bayou there's yet another small tree attracting pollinators by clustering small, brilliantly white flowers into dense, large clusters that show up very well in the somber, shadowy greenness, as shown above.

Notice how the small flowers cluster into subgroups with each subgroup arising from its own stiff stem. Another shot showing a leaf's underside with its prominent, branching secondary veins extending into the tips of leaf-margin teeth is below:

Arrow-Wood, VIBURNUM DENTATUM, flowers and leaf underside

In that picture also note that the leaves are opposite, or two to a stem node, which helps distinguish this group of plants from the majority of other bush and tree types, which have alternate leaves, or only one leaf arising per stem node. A close-up of three individual flowers is shown below:

Arrow-Wood, VIBURNUM DENTATUM, male flowers

Each of those flowers consists of only a white corolla and five white male stamens, but there are no female parts. In this species, flowers at the edge of the cluster are all male; a few flowers with female parts are found inside the cluster.

This is Arrow-Wood, VIBURNUM DENTATUM. Lots of viburnum species exist, and in my days viburnums were classified as members of the Honeysuckle Family, the Caprifoliaceae, but genetic sequencing now has many experts shifting them to the newly formed Adoxaceae, along with elderberries. This new family lies near the Dogwood Family, and that's not surprising since during my years in the field more than once I've confused viburnums with dogwoods. Not only their leaves and flowers but also their fruits can be very similar. You might be interested in comparing our current Arrow-wood pictures with those of the Swamp Dogwood we looked at just two weeks ago, at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/w/swampdog.htm.

At last one source on the Internet affirms that American indigenous people used Arrow-wood for making arrows, and the fellow who says this is an arrow-making expert who makes his own Arrow-Wood arrows. You might find his detailed, well illustrated page (showing some Arrow-wood arrows) at http://www.angelfire.com/md3/archeryrob/arrows.html.

Another source says that traditionally a decoction of Arrow-Wood twigs was taken by women to prevent conception. Poultices of the plant have been applied to the swollen legs of women after giving birth.