Wayfaring Tree is a species of Viburnum known as Viburnum Lantana, native to parts of Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. In Great Britain it tends to be found as far north as Yorkshire, although it will survive in sheltered areas further north.
It is a large deciduous shrub or small tree, a very familiar country hedgerow plant growing particularly well in chalky areas. In days gone by Wayfaring Tree was sometimes known as ‘Hoarwithy’, hoar meaning grey-haired and referring to the hairs on the undersides of the leaves and withy meaning a flexible stem.
These large green leaves turn to a wonderful crimson colour in autumn and the flat-topped clusters of fragrant, white flowers that contrast with the foliage in spring are followed by orange-red fruits which mature to black in autumn. Quite often Viburnum Lantana is also grown as an ornamental plant for the bees and other insects and birds to benefit from the flowers and berries as well as for its aesthetic value.
Originally classed in the honeysuckle family or Caprifoliaceae it is only relatively recently that botanists have included the Viburnum genus in the Adoxaceae and quirkily the name Lantana is an old Latin name for Viburnum so the genus and species of Wayfaring Tree have the same meaning.
Suitable for a hedge normally growing to a height of between 120-300cm, Viburnum Lantana will usually grow at a rate of about 30cm per year and can be planted as a single row of 3 plants per metre or if a bushier, more spectacular result is required then a double row can be planted at 5 per metre. Most reasonable soils if moist but well-drained will be suitable for Wayfaring Tree and in a sunny position although it can tolerate a little shade.