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By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Bunchberry ground cover is a great addition to the garden for year round interest. Learn more about this creeping plant and how to grow it in the following article.
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By Garden Making Filed Under: News
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) preferred by 80% in online survey for Canada’s National Flower. (Photo by Todd Boland)
In a nation-wide poll that ended on Canada Day, 80% of almost 10,000 people picked bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) as their choice for a national flower. The flower is known as quatre-temps in French and kawiscowimin in Cree. From the beginning of the National Flower Contest in March, the little white flower held the lead in the online vote, says Maureen Hulbert, executive director, Toronto Master Gardeners, who spearheaded the contest by the Master Gardeners of Ontario.
Bunchberry, along with hooded lady’s tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) and twinflower (Linnaea borealis), were identified as three finalists with the help of Todd Boland, research horticulturist with Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, because they are found all across the nation, growing wild in most areas, and are not already designated as provincial or territorial emblems.
Bunchberry changes with the seasons, just like Canada does, says Hulbert, with white flowers in late spring, red berries in summer, and red leaf colour in fall.
One of the smallest members of the dogwood (Cornus) family, bunchberry forms a low, carpet-like mat of leaves, up to four inches (10 cm) tall you’ll typically see it in the understorey of moist, shady woods. In late spring, it produces showy “flowers” that appear a few inches above the leaves. These white flowers are modified leaves called bracts, which attract pollinators to the actual flowers in the centre.
Bunchberry is largely self-sterile, which means it is dependent on pollinators, such as bumblebees, solitary bees, bee flies and syrphid flies, for reproduction.
Once pollinated, it produces edible fruit, a food source for black bears, martens, snowshoe hares and other small mammals, as well as many migratory birds. Bunchberry is also a winter forage plant for caribou, elk, deer and moose.
The Master Gardeners will submit an online petition to Parliament to have the winner declared Canada’s official national flower.
“We all love to celebrate the wildness of Canada and its varied areas and having something that can actually grow in every part of the country pulls us together,” Hulbert says. “The generic maple is considered Canada’s national tree. But of the 150 or so types of maple in the world, only 13 are native to North America, of which 10 grow in Canada, and not all grow in every province and territory.”
Of course, Canada’s provinces and territories have deep-rooted floral emblems to represent regional distinctions, ranging from Nova Scotia’s mayflower, designated in 1901 and said to be named after the namesake ship that took British pilgrims to the New World, to Nunavut’s purple saxifrage, designated in 2000, which grows like a carpet over the territory’s rocky surfaces.
Around the world, Scotland’s national flower is the thistle. Wales has designated the daffodil (the vegetable leek is also considered to be a national emblem). The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 1985 to declare the rose its national floral emblem. Australia has deemed the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) to reflect its cultural identity.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
You will have to simulate the rich leafy, humus laden soil of woodlands, as well as its even moist character. The soil should be a trifle acidic to suit bunchberries.
You can generally simulate woodland soil using leaf compost, and by watering the plants regularly, to just enough to keep them moist, not enough to turn the ground swampy.
"A rich humus soil as found in a woodland setting is required, along with even moisture. A slightly acidic soil is also required."
As varied are the different dogwoods as the number of tools you can select to perform the pruning. Select the appropriate one according to the size of the plant, its age and the type of pruning it will perform.
Never forget the importance of disinfecting your tools before and after work. This will prevent the spread of disease from plant to plant, aiding the overall health of the garden.
You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:
There are 17 varieties of dogwoods native to North America. However, only four of those are popularly grown. The flowering dogwood is the most common and familiar among them. This is because it is exceptionally vibrant, with red fruit and white or pink flowers. Read on to get to know the popular varieties of dogwood and find the one that is right for your garden.
Flowering dogwoods aren’t in bloom year-round, but they do remain an interesting sight to see all year. In the early spring or late winter, they feature white or pink flowers and green foliage. And, in summer their leaves turn a deep red and begin to fruit. Lastly, in winter, the branches keep small, attractive buds at their tips. They can grow to 20 feet tall with a 12-inch wide trunk. They’re a favorite for gardeners all over North America.
Pacific dogwoods are native to the west coast of North America. Their land stretches from San Francisco to British Columbia. It’s a bit taller than the flowering dogwood, growing to about 25 meters. They also tend to stick to the mountains. In fact, they are often called mountain dogwoods instead of pacific dogwoods. Their clustering flowers are a beautiful snow-white. They also feature wide petals (bracts) that make for a true show when in bloom.
Red Osier dogwoods are native to the northern and western regions of North America. Their habitat stretches from Alaska to Durango and as far east as Illinois. As the name lets on, the Red Osier is a very red variety of dogwood with dark red branches and twigs. Because of this, it is also called red brush, red willow, redstem dogwood, redtwig dogwood, red-rood, American dogwood, creek dogwood, and western dogwood. It commonly grows in wetlands or areas with damp soil. They will also grow small white fruit and small flowers in a dull white.
Gray dogwoods are native to the eastern parts of North America. This includes southeastern regions of Canada, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Gray dogwoods grow best in these areas. They get their name from the gray tint of their leaves, but they do feature other colors. They feature red leaves when young, and their flowers and fruit are white.
Behind the flowering dogwood, the Japanese dogwood is the most popularly grown variety. They’re cultivated for ornamental purposes, due to exceptionally showy colors and flowers. Their flowers are yellow-green, and the surrounding bracts are pure white. Their fruits are bright pink, but transition to red as they grow.
Pagoda dogwoods function more like a shrub in your garden than a tree. This is because their trunks reach only 6 inches in diameter. And, their branches develop horizontally. These branches form low on the tree, leaving only a foot or two uncovered. Their leaves form in clusters, and their cream-colored flowers cover the branches thoroughly.
Cornelian cherry is a dogwood shrub, or small tree, with impressive yellow flowers. This small, showy tree blooms fairly early. In fact, its flowers show up in early spring, before its leaves have had a chance to sprout. An interesting thing about dogwood species is that its fruit is edible. It’s a great ingredient for liquor, jam, sauces, and even pickles.
Yellow Twigs are actually dogwood shrubs, rather than trees. They are incredibly decorative. They’re most often placed where they have the most visual impact, such as in front of windows. In spring, their tiny white flowers are there to delight. During summer, the shrub will turn green. In fall and winter this transitions to bright yellow.
Giant dogwoods, also known as the wedding cake tree, is native to various parts of Asia and the Himalayas. It’s a deciduous tree that grows to an impressive 50 feet. It features snow-white flowers, black fruit, and dark green leaves. In the fall, these leaves turn purple-red. They’re a real show if you have the chance to see them. Because of their size, they’re most often used in parks or in coordinated landscaping designs.
The bunchberry dogwood isn’t a tree or a shrub. Instead, it’s a herbaceous subshrub or dwarf cornel, more commonly called a wildflower. This plant stays very low, and spreads its dark-green leaves wide across the soil. While it’s vastly different from most dogwoods, there are similarities. It still has white flowers, and also bears red fruit. During fall, its foliage turns red or purple. If you’re looking for a dogwood that won’t take up as much space in your yard, this is it.
There are a few different names for this type of dogwood tree. These include bloodtwig and European dogwood. It features dull white flowers, blue-black fruit, and attractive red-purple fall foliage. Unfortunately, the fruit on this dogwood is not suitable for consumption. Young plants have red stems, which will last through fall and winter.
Like other dogwoods, this variety has many names, including red-barked or white dogwood. It isn’t a tree, but rather a surculose shrub, though it can grow as a small tree. It’s often a landscaping shrub due to its winter and fall red stems. During summer and spring, it’s covered in light green foliage with white rims. It blooms with flat, clustered white flowers and produces white or tinted blue fruit.
The silky dogwood is also known as kinnikinnik, red willow, silky cornel, and squawbush. They’re native to most areas of North America. This variety is a deciduous shrub that grows to an impressive 16 feet tall. It features showy foliage and tiny creamy white flowers. It also bears clustered fruits that look a bit like blueberries.
The Himalayan dogwood’s alternate names include Benthams’ cornel, Himalayan strawberry tree, and evergreen dogwood. It’s native to low woodland areas throughout Asia, as well as parts of Australia. It is an evergreen tree that will grow to about 40 feet tall with gray-green leaves. During summer it will bloom with white flowers and produce red fruits.
Brown dogwoods are also called smooth dogwoods or western cornels. They are a large shrub, though also considered a thicket-forming dogwood bush. In tune with other dogwoods, they form clusters of white fuzzy flowers and blue berries. Their bright green leaves also turn red in the fall and remain that way through winter. One of their most unique features is that they grow along the water.