Cornus stolonifera

red-osier dogwood

Cornus stolonifera (syn. Cornus sericea) is a 2-3 m tall deciduous shrub to small tree with distinctive bright red young stems. Leaves are oval with a sharp tip and 5-7 parallel veins. Flowers are white and grow in dense clusters, growing into small, pea-sized white to blue or green-tinged berries.

Cultural Narrative: 

Red-osier dogwood berries are edible though extremely bitter. Berries were harvested from August to October and were usually consumed fresh, mashed or mixed with sweeter fruits such as choke cherries or serviceberries. Berries were sometimes dried in cakes. Turner (2007:107) notes that the Lower Stl'atl'imx extracted the seeds and stored them for snacking. The berries are also used as a mouthwash. Some Interior groups consider them inedible.

The boiled inner bark (cambium) was used for many illneses and also applied to sores and swellings to relieve pain. The leaves or bark may be smoked or mixed with tobacco.

Branches were used for fish traps, poles, skewers, and even salmon stretchers. They may also be used in sweat lodges.

Location Description: 

Red-osier dogwood is found growing throughout much of North America along streams, in swamps, and moist to wet upland forests.