Muskroot Family

Blue Elderberry © TCorelli

Viburnaceae (vi-burn-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Usually opposite, toothed leaves
  • Usually clusters of small, 5-petalled flowers
  • Inferior ovary
  • Fruit a drupe

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Perennial herbs, shrubs, and trees
  • Leaves
    • Generally opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem)
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets) or compound (divided into leaflets)
    • Generally toothed
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence in many forms
      • Often a flat-topped, small-flowered cyme (branched stem with flowers opening from the top down)
    • Radially symmetric, usually bisexual, usually 5-petalled flowers
    • Ovary wholly or partly inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a drupe (a fleshy fruit with usually 1 seed in a hard inner shell–a stone fruit)


  • Approximately 200 species
    • Found especially in northern temperate regions
    • Includes elderberries (Sambucas species), viburnums (Viburnum species), and moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina)
  • Scientific name from the included genus Viburnum, a Latin name referring to V. lantana
    • Synonymous with Adoxaceae
  • Common name from one of the many names for moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), referring to that plant’s musky scent
    • Also known as the Moschatel family
  • Previously included in the Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)
  • Represented by 1 species at Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Grieve, M. 1931. Moschatel, Common. A Modern Herbal. A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve.

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family