Bunchberry

bunchberry

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Bunchberry is a very common perennial woodland plant, found almost everywhere except in deep shade: edges, gaps, hedgerows, open-canopy hardwoods. Often about 15 cm high, with 4 – 6 whorled leaves, its tiny flower appears in June and July. This little flower has only one petal, but the much larger petal-like bracts make it quite conspicuous, and show its relation with other dogwood types. The bright red ‘berries’ cluster near the ground and invite any passer-by (bird, mouse, human) to try them. The taste is rather bland, but they are quite edible, and thus are consumed by many, including me.

 

Bunchberry relies heavily on vegetative reproduction through its spreading rhizomes, so it is often found in large colonies or clones which can survive for decades. It can be grown from seed, although germination requires both light and a preceding cold treatment. It can also be started from transplanting a clump into a moist, shady location where the soil is not too heavy. It makes a nice addition to a wild garden, although it may be moderately difficult to start.