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Red Osier Dogwood Cornus sericea ssp. sericea (Cornus stolonifera, Swida sericea))


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Red Osier Dogwood
credit: Curtis Clark, BioTrek/CCSA

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Alternate name: Red-twig Dogwood

Family: Cornaceae, Dogwood view all from this family

Description Cornus sericea is native throughout northern and western North America from Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to Durango and Nuevo Len in the west, and Illinois and Virginia in the east. Other names include Red Willow, Kinnikinnick, Redstem Dogwood, Redtwig Dogwood, Red-rood, American Dogwood, Creek Dogwood, and (subsp. occidentalis) Western Dogwood.

In the wild, it commonly grows in areas of damp soil, such as wetlands. It is a medium to tall deciduous shrub, growing 1.5–4 m tall and 3–5 m wide, spreading readily by underground stolons to form dense thickets. The branches and twigs are dark red, although wild plants may lack this coloration in shaded areas. The leaves are opposite, 5–12 cm long and 2.5–6 cm broad, with an ovate to oblong shape and an entire margin; they are dark green above and glaucous below; fall color is commonly bright red to purple. The flowers are small (5–10 mm diameter), dull white, in clusters 3–6 cm diameter. The fruit is a globose white berry 5–9 mm diameter.

Comments This dogwood is adaptable to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions but is plagued by twig blight, scale and bagworms. Red twigs are especially effective in winter against the snow. Cornus occidentalis occurs throughout cismontane CA to B.C. in the same habitats as C. sericea.

Exposure Preference Sun to partial shade.

Flower May - June

Native Distribution Newfoundland. to Alaska, s. to Virginia, Nebraska, New Mexico mts. & n. California

Site Preference River banks; lake shores; wooded or open, wet areas

Soil Preference Moist, well-drained soils. pH 6.1-8.5.

Wildlife Value Waterfowl, marshbirds and shorebirds are major users. Also large and small mammals.