Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Red-osier Dogwood - Cornus stolonifera

Purgative, Fruit, Seed, Fiber, Wood, Dye, Smoke, Tonic, External Use



Cornus alba. [PFAF]
C. alba var. californica (C.A. Mey.) B. Boivin [E-flora]
C. alba var. occidentalis (Torr. & A. Gray) B. Boivin [E-flora]
C. occidentalis. [Turner, Kuhnlein][E-flora]
C. sericea. [Turner, Kuhnlein][PFAF][E-flora][PCBC2004]
C. sericea subsp. sericea [E-flora]

C. stolonifera var. californica (C.A. Mey.) McMinn [E-flora]
C. stolonifera var. occidentalis (Torr. & A. Gray) C.L. Hitchc. [E-flora]
C. ×californica C.A. Mey. [E-flora]
Swida stolonifera. [PFAF]
Thelycrania stolonifera. [PFAF]

General "a deciduous Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 4 m (13ft)."[PFAF] young branches opposite.[IFBC][E-flora] Spreading. [WildPNW]
Flowers White to greenish,[PCBC2004] in an "Inflorescence of flat-topped terminal clusters".[IFBC][E-flora] "The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife." [PFAF]
Fruits Small, white to tan, [WildPNW] White (occasionally blue-tinged),[PCBC2004] "Berrylike drupes...each with a somewhat flattened stone."[IFBC][E-flora]
Leaves "Opposite, ...oval, pointed, 4-12 cm long, greenish above, whitish below, turning reddish in the autumn".[IFBC][E-flora] "...mostly sharp-pointed with 5-7 prominent parallel veins that converge at leaf tips".[PCBC2004] "green on both surfaces but paler on the underside". [PWOBC]
Stem "young stems often bright red, especially after a frost." [PCBC2004] "bright red to purplish red stems becoming grayish green with age". [WildPNW]
Habitat "Wet to mesic streamsides, lakesides, swamps and forests".[IFBC][E-flora] Moist soil, rocky shorelines (in Alaska), and disturbed sites. [PCBC2004]
Range Common throughout BC.[IFBC] [E-flora]
Status Native.[IFBC][E-flora]
Similar Species "The variety west of the Coast and Cascade Mountains is sometimes distinguished as C. stolonifera var. occidentalis, or as C. occidentalis." [PCBC2004] "Subsp. occidentalis is rough, hairy. Subsp. sericea is hairless or has few long hairs but is not rough." [WildPNW]



Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Medicinal Use
"Red osier dogwood was widely employed by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent and tonic bark, using it both internally and externally to treat diarrhoea, fevers, skin problems etc[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism. The plant is said to have cured hydrophobia[4]." [PFAF]





About 10% of the air-dried stem bark was ethanol-soluble. One of the products obtained (0.07570 yield, based on the weight of bark) was a flavone glycosicle, identifie as hyperin (quercetin- 3-galactoside). In addition to hyperin, the alcohol extract contained fumaric acid, tannins, and a mixture of long-chain fatty acids. The latter mixture was found to consist of n-C24- (66.7%), n-C26- (22.8%), and n-C28-carboxylic acids. In one experiment, when fresh bark was extracted at once, these fatty acids mere obtained only after saponification, showing that hydrolysis inay occur during storage of the plant.[IHCS]


"An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility[1], ranging from acid to shallow chalk[200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist soil and a position in sun or partial shade[108]. Succeeds in poorly drained soils[200]. Plants are hardy to about -35°c[184]. A rampant suckering shrub[1]. A number of cultivars have been developed for their ornamental value[182]. This species is closely allied to C. alba[11]. The flowers are very attractive to bees[108]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]." [PFAF]

Wildlife: Black bears are said to be fond of these "berries". [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Habitat Restoration

..."frequently used for waterway bank erosion protection and restoration.... Its root system provides excellent soil retention, it is hardy ... and its ability to be reproduced by cuttings makes it..." economical.[7][8] [Wiki]

"The brush bundles... consisted of fresh cuttings of live red-osier dogwood bundled together with wire. The red-osier dogwoods are used because they quickly establish roots in a stream environment. The red-osier is known to develop excellent root strength." [8][Wiki] (Derived from the primary source material)

"At a location where the erosion was more extreme ..., Kushner installed coir logs. Coir logs consist of tightly bound cylinders of coir (coconut) fiber bound together with netting made from coir twine. Plantings are inside the sleeve of the log. By the time the log dissolves, live plantings have taken root and will protect the bank." [8][Wiki] (Derived from the primary source material)

"Seventh graders pound live willow and red osier dogwood into the erosion blanket that will establish roots to hold the shoreline soil in place. Additional plant plugs (prairie cordgrass and Sprengel’s sedge) that will grow long roots are planted to further stabilize the shoreline." [7][Wiki] (Derived from the primary source material)

Groundcover: "Plants can be grown as a tall ground cover for colonising large areas. The cultivar 'Flaviramea' has been recommended[208]." [PFAF]


"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed[80, 113]. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors[80, 164]. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 - 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year[164]. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification[80, 164]. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more[164]. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts."[78][PFAF]


Page last modified on Saturday, January 1, 2022 2:27 PM