Viburnum acerifolium is a shrub to 2 m tall, colonial from root sprouts, diffuse; roots associated with vesicular-arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi (Berliner and Torrey 1989); twigs hairy, leaf scars opposite, narrow, winter buds pointed, scales 2-3 pairs, lowest pair short (Harlow 1946).
Leaves opposite, to 12 cm long, 3-lobed, tip pointed, base rounded to lobed, margin toothed, dull dark green, hairy, veins palmate, autumn foliage pink-maroon.
Flowers white, small, in broad, flat or domed clusters, to 3.5 cm wide, on a stalk to 9 cm long, May-June.
Fruit hard-fleshy, dark blue-black, elliptic, usually flattened side-to-side, 1-seeded, ripens Sept.-Oct., persistent into winter. Seed load 35%. Pulp nutrients: water 83%, lipid 3%, protein 3%, CHO 9% (White 1989). Available for winter resident birds. fruit eaten by some birds and mammals (Martin et al. 1951). Dispersal to and establishment in new sites in successional forest, contiguous to old regrowth stands has been calculated at a rate of 1.26 m/yr (Matlack 1994).
Wetland status: NL.
Frequency in NYC: Frequent.
Habitat: Moist upland understory of mature, undisturbed forests with oak, beech, hickory, maple. Requires acid soils, pH 3.9-7.5 (USDA, NRCS 2010; Greller et al. 1990; Hightshoe 1988). Tolerant of shade. Moderately tolerant of drought, soil compaction. Intolerant of flooding, salt (Hightshoe 1988).
Notes: Often found with Vaccinium pallidum in beech-oak woodlands (personal observation). Twigs eaten by deer and rabbits (Martin et al. 1951).