Canada Dogwood (aka. Bunchberry, Crackerberry, Creeping Dogwood, Dwarf Cornel)
Dogwood you say? Aren’t dogwoods those beautiful trees with the pink or white blossoms in parks and on the suburban lawns of New England that remind us that spring has arrived? Is Canada Dogwood like Canadian Bacon, where it isn’t really bacon at all…just ham? (By the way… my Nova Scotian family never referred to ham as bacon.)
This little flower is another reminder that spring is here. When you observe Canada Dogwood, you may think that it is in bloom when it isn’t. This is because what look like pretty white flower petals are attractive bracts (modified leaves) surrounding a cluster of tiny greenish white flowers in the middle. This one was photographed in late June in Nova Scotia. I’ve seen them flowering in the woods of Vermont’s northeast kingdom in late May, and in the heat of the summer I’ve seen them along the carriage roads of Acadia National Park with red berries in place of the flowers.
The distinctive whorls of 4-6 leaves with smooth edges makes them fairly easy to identify, even when the white bracts are long gone in August. At this point, the flowers have been replaced by what most would call red berries, although they are correctly termed drupes. Don’t feel bad about your error if you thought they were berries, because raspberries are really aggregate drupes as well –so it is a common misnomer.
I’ve read that the berries/drupes are edible and have a crunchy texture, but do not have much of a taste to them (4). Where they are found, they are plentiful as they can spread and form colonies using their underground rhizomes.
Habitat: mixed and softwood/conifer forests
Size: 15cm (1), 6″(2), 1-12″ (3), 25 cm(4)
Family: Dogwood Family (Cornaceae)
1. Burzynski, M., Haworth, A. (1988). Forest Plants of the Fundy Coast. New Brunswick, Canada: The Fundy Guild Inc.
2. Alden, P., Cassie, B. (1998). National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, inc..
3. Reader’s Digest (1982). North American Wildlife. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association
4. Boland, T. (2012) Trees & Shrubs of the Maritimes. Portugal Cove-St. Phillip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: Boulder Publications