Canadian Bunchberry
Cornus canadensis L.

Collected along Lolo Creek, Idaho Co., Idaho, on 16 Jun 1806.  (Source)

A perennial to 8" tall, with creeping rhizomes. Low growing woodland plant, often found in large colonies. Grows to a height of about 6", with a spread of 6".The leaves are elliptical 1-3-1/2" long, with prominent longitudinal veins. These leaves form a terminal whorl in groups of five to seven. The flowers consist of four white petal-like bracts and a central cluster of small true flowers with tiny greenish-white petals. The true flowers produce a tight cluster of bright red-orange berries the size of small peas. It's white flowers are quite showy, consequently the plant has some ornamental value appearing from May to June. Bright red berry in a tight cluster, each 1/3 inch across, terminal clusters occur on a slender stem, ripen in late summer. When ripe, they are soft with a yellowish pulp and a hard central seed Commonly forms large mats in moist coniferous woods and clear cuts, especially on rotten logs and stumps.

Food Uses
Bunchberries are slightly pulpy but sweet and flavorful and eaten raw in early autumn with Grease, or in recent times with sugar. Some First Peoples have steamed them and preserved them for winter in water and grease. Bunchberries are other used, alone or mixed with other berries, to make sauces and preserves, or strained to make syrups or jellies. 

Medicinal Uses
The leaves have been known to be burned and powdered, then applied to topical sores. The berry was considered to have anti-inflammatory, fever-reducing and pain-killing properties.  It has been used to treat inflammations of the stomach and large intestine. Native peoples used tea make from the entire plant to treat aches and pains, lung and kidney problems, coughs, fevers, and fits. 

Value for Wildlife:
In Alaska, bunchberry is one of the two most important forage plants for mule deer and black-tailed deer and is used throughout the growing season. Moose also use bunchberry during the growing season. Spruce and sharp-tailed grouse use the fruit and buds.

Succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility.  Easily grown in a peaty soil in shade or partial shade. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Grows best in sandy soils. Prefers a damp soil. Not suitable for alkaline soils. 

Ct. Botanical Society Photo

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