This native shrub is named for the downy velvet of its leaf undersides and the April-May blossom of its flowers that coincide with the shad fish runs in New England. These early blooms of white flowers are exceptionally popular pollination sites for bees. Tolerant to varying levels of light, soil moisture, and pH, its range extends across the varying climates of the eastern half of North America. While it typically grows between 15 – 40 feet, it may reach heights up to 70 feet under full sunlight in well-drained, acidic soils.
Downy shadbush is typically found in meadows and woodland understories, often providing important resources for wildlife as an early colonizer of disturbed habitats. It is a larval host plant for numerous butterfly species, including the admiral, tiger swallowtail, viceroy, and striped hairstreak. Its berries are set around June and ripen into summer, at which point they are consumed by more than 40 bird species and many mammals. The seeds within these fruits are then stripped of their protective shells during digestive processes, allowing them to germinate once they are dropped by the animals.