Viburnum tinus subsp. rigidum

Another entry written by Tamara Bonnemaison today. She writes:

The late James Gaither (aka JG in SF@Flickr) captured these two stages of Viburnum tinus subsp. rigidum, first in flower and then in fruit, at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. We are so grateful for the amazing collection of botanical photography that James Gaither has left for all of us to enjoy — please do visit his Flickr site.

Viburnums have been featured many times on Botany Photo of the Day, including Viburnum betulifolium, Viburnum rhytidophyllum, Viburnum lantanoides, and Viburnum × bodnantense. It is no wonder the staff at BPotD are fond of viburnums. The shrubs and small trees of this genus are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere, and many are commonly used in the gardens and landscapes of British Columbia and around the temperate world. The viburnums are loved by gardeners for their showy and often scented flowers, bright berries, and fall colour. The genus is quite variable, and one of the few characteristics shared by all members is that the fruits are drupes (stone fruit). Another characteristic that applies to nearly all viburnums is that they are reluctant to self-pollinate, so multiple plants of the same species (ideally not of the same clonal stock) should be planted in order to get a good fruit set.

Viburnum tinus is an excellent garden ornamental. It has an upright, oval to rounded form, and its evergreen leaves grow right down to the edge of the ground, making it particularly useful as a screen or hedge. The common name for this species, laurustinus, comes from its lustrous, laurel-like dark green leaves, which are complemented by pink buds that open to white, slightly fragrant flowers in winter. These flowers mature to the stunning black, metallic fruits shown in today’s second photo. Laurustinus is quite easy to grow, being adaptable to most soil types and tolerant of full sun, salt spray, shade, and drought. Viburnum tinus is native to southern Europe, but the subspecies rigidum hails from the Canary Islands. I could not find a habit photo of the subspecies, but a lovely photo of Viburnum tinus growing wild in Sardinia was photographed by Gino Cherchi: Viburnum tinus.

Laurustinus may have some medicinal qualities; I found some sources that discussed its potential as a treatment for menstrual cramps, but cannot validate its efficacy (the same sources also said the berries could be toxic, so please don’t try this out!). The most enthusiastic source of medical information about the viburnum genus is the 9th Edition of the Journal of Materia Medica, published in the 19th century. This source raves of the compound viburnin that the “Eclectic Physician” used to treat an array of diseases. This substance was derived from the bark of the high cranberry (Viburnum opulus), but is potentially also found in other species of Viburnum. Much more recently, the author of the blog Naturally Dyeing has used laurustinus to dye fabric (read about her attempts).

Viburnum tinus subsp. rigidum
Viburnum tinus subsp. rigidum

6 responses to “Viburnum tinus subsp. rigidum”

  1. Jane (me)/ MulchMaid

    Another great write-up. I will suggest Viburnum tinus ssp rigida to my family in central coastal California, where they have difficulty with the salt air.

  2. Sara

    I may be one of the few that think that viburnum flowers stink. Gaggy stink. Yes, the flowers and fruit are lovely, so I would recommend planting downwind from the house, patio or walkway.

  3. kathy

    This is a lovely shrub, especially for its’ decorative fruit and flowers during the winter. A large problem for the Vancouver area has been infestations of viburnum beetle. The leaves are chewed, and left shredded.

  4. ALISON

    I love the scented viburnums, but have a little trouble growing them in Ottawa, Ontario. The main problem is that the local mice, voles and bunnies find the bark and flower buds irresistible during the winter. I’ve had two ring-barked by rodents in the past, and hope to foil them this year by using a plastic spiral on the lower trunk and boughs.
    I thought I’d seen this species growing in Prague this year, but a quick look at my photos showed me it was actually Prunus laurocerasus, the cherry laurel, not laurustinus. It was the ‘laur-‘ part of the book that misled me.

  5. Ron B

    Haven’t noticed a significant smell from laurustinus except when it gets cut back and then the new summer growth mildews, smells of cats. V. lantana on the other hand…
    Subspecies rigidum may not be on the market in California, but desired attributes can surely be obtained from versions of the species that are. If I were to hunt down a particular type I would look for stock sold as ‘Lucidum’ as that name tends to be used for plants producing superior glossy leaves.

  6. salvato Cherchi (noto Gino)

    Ringrazio l’Università di Berkrley per aver visitato la mia galleria sul sito flickr ( http://flickr.com/photos/piante_e_fiori_della_sardegna/) per aver elogiato la foto di Viburnum tinus.
    Tasnks.

Leave a Reply