By Janelle Eklund
It was June and as I was driving down the McCarthy Road on a sunny summer day when white clusters of flowers on a tall shrub caught my eye. The area was close to about mile 3 where it had been cleared at one time. American Dogwood also like to grow along stream banks and moist woods. I got out my camera and tripod and set it up at eye height to focus in on the little white flowers dotted with orange centers. Reddish to brown soft fuzzy branches held oblong green leaves with deep furrowed veins.
Cornus stolonifera, also known as Red-Osier Dogwood can get up to twelve feet tall. As the plant matures the flowers change their dress into clusters of white bitter berries. The bitterness is a warning that they can induce vomiting and be mildly poisonous. But that doesn't deter bears from making dinner out of it.
The stems of this plant is a favorite delicacy for moose and so is important browse habitat. Being straight and flexible the stems have also been used by Dena'ina natives to fashion into beautiful rims on baskets.
The spring and fall bark and roots of American Dogwood have been thoroughly dried and used for colds and fever, or, being an astringent, used in a steam for oily skin.
This tall shrub is a relative to the much smaller Bunchberry or Dwarf Dogwood.
Enjoy the delicate beauty of this tall shrub.
From my light to yours-
References: Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield; Tanaina Plantlore by Priscilla Russel Kari; Plants of the Western Boreal Forest & Aspen Parkland.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.