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The Wayfaring-tree

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Wayfaring-tree

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Family Caprifoliaceae
Viburnum Lantana

The Wayfaring-tree may be looked for wherever the soil is dry, as far north as Yorkshire. Though not confined to chalk-hills it finds such conditions best and is there especially abundant. It is not indigenous in either Scotland or Ireland.
Though it grows to a height of twenty feet in places, it can never properly be called a tree. Its downy stems are never very stout. They branch a good deal, and are always given off in pairs, a branch from each side of the stem at exactly the same height; the leaves are produced in the same order. These leaves, which are three or four inches in length, are much wrinkled, heart-shaped, with a blunt, small end, white beneath, and the edges very finely toothed.
The flower-cluster is a cyme, and it should be noted that all the white flowers comprised in it are of the same size and form, the corollas being funnel-shaped, with five lobes, and the five stamens are extruded from the mouth. The flowers, which are jointed to the stalks, are out in May and June, and the flattened oval fruits that follow are at first red and then black.
The Wayfaring-tree is a bold plant; in winter showing its large naked buds, all rough with starry hairs, which keep off frost, as well as do the many scales and thick varnish of Horse Chestnut buds. In summer the broad, hairy leaves look as dusty as a miller’s coat, and above them spread the slightly rounded heads of white flowers; later, the flowers are succeeded by bunches of glowing coral beads, that in autumn become beads of jet.
The local names of this shrub include Mealy-tree, Whipcrop, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, Coventree, Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, Twist-wood and White-wood. Mealy-tree, Cotton-tree, Cottoner and Whitewood all have obvious reference to the appearance of the young shoots and leaves, due to the presence of the white hairs with which they are covered. Lithe-wort and Lithy-tree, also Twist-wood and Whipcrop, indicate the supple and elastic character of the branches, which are often used instead of Withy to bind up a bundle of sticks or vegetables, or to make a loop for a gate fastener. On the Continent the shoots, when only a year old, are used in basket-weaving, and, when a year or two older, serve for pipe-stems.


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