Herbs & Plants

Cornus sericea

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Botanical Name : Cornus sericea
Family: Cornaceae
Genus:     Cornus
Subgenus: Swida
Species: C. sericea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Cornales

Synonyms: Swamp’s Dogwood. Red Willow. Silky Cornel. Female Dogwood. Blueberry. Kinnikinnik. Rose Willow.
(French) Cornouille.

Common Names:Red Osier Dogwood, Western dogwood, Red willow, Redstem dogwood, Redtwig dogwood, Red-rood, American dogwood, Creek dogwood.

Habitat: Cornus sericea is native throughout northern and western North America from Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to Durango and Nuevo León in the west, and Illinois and Virginia in the east.It grows on Shores and thickets. Along streams, rivers and moist sites, 450 – 2700 metres

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.
The Latin specific epithet sericea means “silky”, referring to the texture of the leaves.

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

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 – 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more. 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. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months

Edible Uses          
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Oil;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Oil.

Fruit – raw or cooked. Juicy. Bitter and unpalatable according to some reports, it was mixed with other fruits such as juneberries (Amelanchier spp) and then dried for winter use by native North Americans. The fruit can cause nausea. The fruit is up to 9mm in diameter. Seed. No more details are given, but the seeds are quite small and woody, looking rather less than edible. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used: Root-bark and bark.

Constituents: The active properties are similar to those found in Peruvian Bark, except that there is more gum mucilage and extractive matter and less resin quinine and tannin.

It is tonic astringent and slightly stimulant, used in periodical and typhoid fever. Taken internally it increases the strength and frequency of the pulse, elevating the temperature of the body. It should be used in the dried state, the fresh bark being likely to upset the stomach.

The powdered bark has been used as toothpowder, to preserve the gums and make the teeth white; the flowers have been used in place of chamomile.

Other Uses:
Cornus sericea is a popular ornamental shrub that is often planted for the red coloring of its twigs in the dormant season. The cultivar ‘Flaviramea’, with lime green stems, has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Like most dogwood species native to North America, C. sericea can be parasitized by the dogwood sawfly, possibly leaving much of the plant devoid of leaves. A variety of pesticides are effective; however, hand-picking the larvae is also an option.

C. sericea is frequently used for waterway bank erosion protection and restoration in the United States and Canada. Its root system provides excellent soil retention, it is hardy and provides an attractive shrub even when bare in winter, and its ability to be reproduced by cuttings makes it a low cost solution for large scale plantings.

Some Plateau Indian tribes ate the berries to treat colds and to slow bleeding.

Known as cansasa in Lakota, the inner bark was also used by the Lakota and other Native Americans as “traditional tobacco”, either by itself or in a mixture with other plant materials. Among the Algonquian peoples such as the Ojibwe, the smoking mixtures, known as kinnikinnick, blended the inner bark with tobacco, while more western tribes added it to the bearberry leaf to improve the taste.

The Ojibwe used red osier dogwood bark as a dye by taking the inner bark, mixing it with other plants or minerals.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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