Pacific dogwood

Cornus nuttallii
Pacific dogwood Pacific dogwood

A small tree or shrub, up to 15 metres tall, with branches arranged in a circular pattern around the tree.

Pacific dogwood leaves

Leaves
Opposite, oval leaves have pointed tips and a slightly toothed edge. Pacific dogwood leaves are dark green and turn orange in fall.

Flowers
The showy, white flowers are actually four to six modified leaves that surround a cluster of 30 to 40 small, green flowers. Dogwoods usually flower in spring and again in fall.

 

 

Fruit
The dark red berries are edible but bitter.

 

Pacific dogwood fruit

Pacific dogwood bark Bark
Smooth and grey.

Where to find Pacific dogwood
It grows on the southern coast and on Vancouver Island south of Port Hardy.

Habitat
Pacific dogwood grows best on deep, coarse, well-drained soils, often underneath Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western hemlock.

The fruit is part of the diet of pigeons, quail, grosbeaks, hermit thrushes, and waxwings. Bears and beavers enjoy the fruit and foliage, and deer eat the twigs.

Where to find Pacific dogwood
Uses
Some aboriginal people used the wood, which is fine-grained, hard and heavy, for bows and arrows. More recently, the Cowichan people on Vancouver Island made knitting needles from it.

The Straits Salish made a tanning agent from the bark. The Thompson people made dyes - deep brown from the bark, black when mixed with grand fir, and red from the roots.

The wood has been used for piano keys. Pacific dogwood varieties are attractive ornamentals in coastal gardens.

Notes
Pacific dogwood is susceptible to a fungus, the dogwood leaf blotch, which disfigures leaves and causes shoots to die back. Clearing away fallen leaves and spraying with lime sulphur in the winter reduces the chance of infection.

The name dogwood most probably comes from the Sanskrit word dag, meaning skewers.

The botanical name nuttallii is for Thomas Nuttall (1798-1859), a British-born botanist and ornithologist. Cornus means horn and may refer to the hard wood.

The Pacific dogwood blossom is the floral emblem of British Columbia.

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