Foraging Wild Fruit: Nannyberry

Photo of Nannyberry fruit cluster

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) is a native shrub who offers edible fruit in late summer and early fall.

Photo of Nannyberry terminal bud

During the white season, the terminal buds of Nannyberry look like a bird's head with a long bill, similar to the buds of Withe-rod. The two outer scales of the above pictured bud have begun to spread apart, but the bird's head can still be seen within.

Photo of Nannyberry twig

From these buds, leafy branches emerge, with growing tips often retaining the look of the winter buds. Leaves grow in pairs and have finely toothed margins and winged petioles.

Photo of Nannyberry flowers cluster

In early June, here in Maine, bright roughly 4" wide white-and-yellow flower clusters appear at the tips of branches. This is a great time to scan the wetland margins of your local nature spots to locate patches of Nannyberry.

Photo of Nannyberry flowers

A close look at the clusters reveals five petals, five stamens, and one pistil on each 1/4" flower.

Photo of Nannyberry ripening fruit

In the heat of summer, Nannyberry fruit develops. By late August, nearly all the fruit at one location I checked were green or greenish-red, but a few had turned a ripe dark purple. A week later, I returned to the spot and met up with a fellow forager.

Photo of Nannyberry and Eastern Chipmunk

This Eastern Chipmunk was frozen in place in a Nannyberry shrub with cheeks noticeably bulging. An excellent reminder that wild edible fruits are enjoyed by non-humans, too.

Photo of Nannyberry fruit

By mid-September, there were enough ripe fruits for me to gather a small handful, but the majority of fruit was still not ripe.  Each fruit contains one flat seed (pictured), somewhat like a watermelon seed, which I spit out, and flesh which tastes like a cross between a date and a banana.

Update: In early October, a friend of mine noticed a Nannyberry loaded with ripe fruit clusters. We had been out gathering acorns and welcomed the chance to pause and snack.

Photo of Nannyberry fruit clusters

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