Also known as withe rod, this common woodland shrub grows to 12 feet (3.7 m) tall and has umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers. In early September, each cluster will have green, white, pink and dark purple fruit present, as ripening is independent. If not eaten by birds, fruits turn dark and shrivel like raisins. Leaves are opposite, thick and leathery, and vary even on the same shrub. Some are heavily toothed while others have almost smooth edges. Light brown buds are very distinctive, lance-shaped and 1/3-1/2 inches (8-13 mm) long. Bark is grey or brown and covered with small white spots.
Often present as an understory plant in mixed forests, it is common in a wide variety of habitats. Wild raisin prefers moist, shady sites, but can grow in almost any condition in clearings, on the edges of swamps and along road-sides. It is one of our most shade and flood tolerant shrubs.
Despite other information we have read, production from seed is quite easy. Crops are usually heavy, making collection a simple task. Seeds are planted in the fall with no cleaning or preparation. Germination the first summer is less than 50%, so plant seeds about 1/2 inch (12 mm) apart. They will continue germinating throughout the first growing season, even into November. A light mulch during summer and fall protects the soil from drying out and allows for late germination. Early seed collection may improve germination rates. Cuttings are useful for certain purposes, such as along steep streambanks where you may not wish to dig much of a hole for roots. We have had more success with summer cuttings than winter cuttings, but neither method has been as easy or productive as growing plants from seed.
Unlike some other shrubs, wild raisin consistently bears heavy crops of fruit. Berries are a not a preferred food, but are eaten by ruffed grouse, American robin, rose-breasted grosbeak, purple finch, cedar waxwing and other birds. Ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, chipmunk, red squirrel, skunk and mice all make use of the fruit, which can hang on late into the winter. Especially where it forms dense thickets, wild raisin provides valuable cover for many types of mammals and birds.
Areas of Usage:
This is another excellent ornamental shrub, with lush foliage, white flowers and very attractive, multi-coloured clusters of fruit. The foliage can also be quite glossy and in fall the leaves turn rosy-orange. Due to its shade tolerance, it is important as an understory shrub in forest plantings. Within a forest, planting wild raisin will increase diversity of height, cover and food sources. Wild raisin can also be planted along the banks of streams and ponds, windbreaks and roadsides. Since it is salt tolerant, it is suitable for coastal plantings.
Wild Raisin, or Withe-rod, is very common in wooded areas throughout the province. It is a somewhat straggling bush, 2 to 12 feet high and seldom exceeding 1 inch in diameter. Its slender, whip-like branches, are ascending, forming a rounded bushy crown. It is abundant in swamps, wet barrens open low lands, and in all types of locations from peaty barrens to dry open areas and pastures. The leaves are thick, leathery and rather dull green; the flowers, cream-white in color, are bourne in broad-five rayed clusters 4 to 5 inches. They are succeeded by abundant fruit turning from pale green into bright rose and then darkening into blue-black. The wood is of no commercial importance.