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Lesson 13: Dogwood — The Grow Network Community
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Lesson 13: Dogwood


  • toreytorey Posts: 2,874 admin

    Dogwoods are a great topic! So underused medicinally!

    I understand that we share a state/provincial flower! I didn't know that until just a few minutes ago when I looked up to see what kind of dogwoods you have in NC. The flowers don't look quite as large as our Pacific Flowering Dogwood, C. nuttallii, which is our provincial flower. Do you know the species of the one you are showing?

    We have four species of Cornus here in BC, that are all quite different. Pacific Flowering Dogwood is a tree, Red Osier Dogwood (C. stolonifera), is a shrub and Bunchberry (C. canadensis) & Alaska Bunchberry (C. unalaschkensis) are both low growers to no more than 8 inches.

    There is some history of medicinal use of C. nuttallii for fever outbreaks between 1830 and 1834 at Fort Vancouver (Washington, not BC).

    You mentioned astringents for sore throats in your pain podcast. One of the first medicines I learned about from Indigenous elders was Red Osier Dogwood. First Nations in my area call this plant Red Willow because of its beautiful red stems. They may excellent landscape plants for the red stems in winter. Anyway, the bark is used for "barking" coughs. Always will remember that. "Barking" cough treatment from "Dog"wood. :)

    As to the edibility of any of our Cornus berries, Pacific Dogwood is edible but quite bitter, Red Osier are edible but not very sweet so were mixed with other berries and the other two are considered quite mealy but very high in pectin so can be mixed with other berries for jam. Popular grouse food.

    I have never seen a Cornelian Cherry, although I have seen them advertised. It never dawned on me that they were dogwoods. I checked to see if they will grow for me and its says they are hardy to zone 4 so it might work for me. Found another article that said they have survived -40 temps at a zone 3 location in Quebec. I will be on the lookout for this at garden centres!

    Thanks for doing this article, Judson!

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,469 admin
    edited April 13

    Thanks, Torey! Yes, that was Cornus florida. Our two state trees are dogwood and longleaf pine.... which, in addition tot he azaleas and holly, wisteria, red tips, weigela, princess trees, etc that bloom at the same time, is why we have pollen like dense yellow fog! Here is a list of those that grow in NC: Find a Plant | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (ncsu.edu)

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 455 ✭✭✭✭

    We have several dogwoods in Missouri too, though the hawthorn is our state flower. I've had good luck getting hawthorns established on my land, but I have never had luck with dogwoods, including the Cornelian Cherry--though I did get a nice stand of red osier going, without realizing it is a dogwood too! (It's called a willow around here.) That gives me hope for my latest experiment--just planted three healthy starts of Cornus canadiensis, bunchberry, hoping for a useful ground cover in a shady spot, producing berries to use for pectin in jam-making.

    I planted the red osier to stabilize a pond bank and for the saplings, useful for trellises and such, and the bunchberry for the berries and ground cover--now it sounds like I need to investigate the medicinal properties of both as well!

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,469 admin

    It is CRAZY how many hawthorns we have growing here, too - here is my list of native varieties, not even including those introduced:

    Crataegus aestivalis (May Hawthorn, Mayhaw), Crataegus alabamensis (Alabama Hawthorn) , Crataegus alleghaniensis (Alleghany Hawthorn), Crataegus aprica (Sunny Hawthorn), Crataegus berberifolia var. berberifolia (Barberry Hawthorn), Crataegus berberifolia var. engelmannii (Barberry Hawthorn), Crataegus boyntonii (Boynton Hawthorn), Crataegus buckleyi (Buckley Hawthorn), Crataegus calpodendron (Pear Hawthorn), Crataegus coccinea (Scarlet Hawthorn), Crataegus collina (Chapman's Hill-thorn), Crataegus colonica, Crataegus craytonii (Crayton Hawthorn), Crataegus crus-galli var. crus-galli (Cockspur Hawthorn), Crataegus crus-galli var. pyracanthifolia, Crataegus dodgei (Dodge Hawthorn), Crataegus flabellata (Fanleaf Hawthorn), Crataegus intricata var. boyntonii (Boynton Hawthorn), Crataegus intricata var. intricata (Entangled Hawthorn), Crataegus intricata var. biltmoreana (Entangled Hawthorn), Crataegus iracunda (Red Hawthorn), Crataegus lassa (Sandhill Hawthorn), Crataegus macrosperma (Bigfruit Hawthorn), Crataegus marshallii (Parsley Hawthorn), Crataegus munda, Crataegus pallens, Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington Hawthorn), Crataegus pruinosa (Frosted Hawthorn), Crataegus punctata (Dotted Hawthorn), Crataegus schuettei (Schuette's Hawthorn), Crataegus senta, Crataegus spathulata (Littlehip Hawthorn), Crataegus succulenta (Fleshy Hawthorn), Crataegus viridis (Green Hawthorn), Crataegus visenda

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 455 ✭✭✭✭

    Wow, that is amazing. I only really knew about Washington hawthorn, Crataegos phaenopyrum, which is the most common one here, the state flower (or that might be C, punctata or C. mollis or some other one, depending on who you ask), and that's the hawthorn I managed to get established on my place. But I just checked the Dept. of Conservation's website out of curiosity, to see which other hawthorns we have, and they won't even give a best guess number. The Univ. of MO site is willing to guess at "about 75 varieties." It would take years to really learn the hawthorns! And then there are all the dogwoods too!!

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,469 admin

    So many of these were once grown for food, but have fallen out of use. I'd add the mulberries, elderberries, gooseberries, currants, rose hips, lots of the blackberry variants and prickly pear cactus to that list. It really is amazing how in basically one generation, the baby boomers, all that common sense was lost. It only takes one generation to reject everything that came before and fail to pass it on. The irony, is that is the very same generation that acted like they were going back to the land, embracing nature, organic gardening, etc,.... I guess that was fun until they figured out it meant work! .... and, my great grandmother rolls her eyes again in heaven. Granny knew everything that is called "lost" knowledge now. My great grandparents died at 96 and 94, having farmed self sufficiently, been married for 70+ years and raised 9 children, who left the farm and turned their backs on what had been slowly build by the generations that came before, over centuries of common sense, hard work. Not one article or recipe in Mother Earth News could ever compare to my great grandfather's country ham, from hogs raised in the woods, butchered at home, salted and smoked in his smoke house, or Granny's biscuits made with lard from those hogs, flour traded for the corn they grew at the mill and butter milk from the milk cow that was her pet. I think I was 6 or 7, when Granny asked me what I'd like for my birthday. I answered, "I want to get the biggest box I can find and you fill it with your biscuits!" I sat by his bed just a day before my great-grandfather died. No one else "could" be there. He was suddenly energized and he talked more those few hours than he had in my entire life. He told me everything, his entire life story... growing up after the Civil War, serving in WW1, farming, raising a family, religion, fishing and hunting, what matters in life. He gave me the gift his own sons never valued. Well, as Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know, the rest of the story".... part of it anyway.

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 455 ✭✭✭✭

    It took about three generations and national upheaval to lose the old ways in my family. My people lost their land during the Depression and joined the migration West to find some way to make a living. Family members scattered, drifted apart, lost touch with one another. My parents settled for factory war work during WWII for "a better life" in material terms at least--like moving from a canvas-covered dugout to a real house with electricity and running water, first time they'd ever had such things. They still knew a lot about the old ways, but didn't feel they needed that any more--in fact were embarrassed to admit they knew it. It all just meant poverty and hardship to them. My sister, 19 years older than me, grew up with all that and completely rejected the old ways as something to be ashamed of. Never taught anything about it to her kids. They are now city folk, scattered across the West Coast, never dreaming there could be any other kind of life.

    I was always curious about the old ways growing up, and my folks taught me some, but reluctantly, always cautioning me not to talk about it at school or the teachers and other kids would think less of me for it. I expect that was a pretty common thing, and lots of kids grew up in the '40's and '50's made to feel ashamed of their heritage. So much of value was lost, and now we have to struggle to rediscover it, almost from scratch! But at least it seems like attitudes are beginning to change, and at least in communities like TGN knowledge and practice of the old ways is something to be valued again.

  • I grew up in rural Missouri (Stockton -El Dorado Springs area) and we ate spring greens, drank sassafras tea, hunted morel mushrooms, and farmed or hunted most of our food. My parents divorced when I was in 3rd grade and mom moved my brother and sister and I into town. When I got old enough (mid 30s) to be interested in all that foraged food, my grandma and great aunts said, "Oh honey, we can afford to buy food now. We don't remember what we used to do."

    I thought that was very sad. And it started my journey to learn about herbs and gardens and hunting.

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,874 admin

    That's a lot of species of Hawthorn @judsoncarroll4. We have about 13 species here in BC but I think the most common is Black Hawthorn (C. douglasii) and its immediate relative Red or Columbia Hawthorn (C. columbiana). There seems to be some dispute as to whether they are colour variations of the same species or separate species. The other species are less common and seem to be isolated to specific geographic areas. There aren't good indicators as to what separates the species. Really nice medicinal. Good idea for a future talk.

    @MaryRowe Red Osier Dogwood is good for more than "barking" coughs. The bark is a febrifuge, increasing circulation and strengthening the pulse. An infusion of the flowers will help ease an upset stomach, similar to Chamomile. A decoction is astringent and can be used as a skin wash for sores or diaper rash. A caution on using bark of any of the Dogwoods is to use it in the dried state, not fresh as it could cause stomach upset.

    Its a shame that there was so much modernism going on. We can't learn to move into the future without knowing about the past. I consider myself very fortunate that I was able to learn from my mother and grandmother.

    But we have a good group here that is spreading the word bit by bit, so that we can regain our medicinal heritage.

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 493 admin

    I have a cornelian cherry and I use the berries, but I did not use it for medicinal purposes, only for the pleasure of the stomach. Thank you @judsoncarroll4 for this useful information.

    @torey the plant is like a elderberry- neither a tree nor a bush and it is a very resistant plant. It survives our winters (we can have down to -20C) pretty well.

    the berries are tricky to use. As long as they are hard, they are sour and kind of bitter. As soon as they are sweet, they are so soft, that they fell down, crash and rot.

    I collect them very red, but still hard, spread them in the sun and warmth and let them ripe. Then they are delicious. I made plenty of jams with apples and cinnamon. After cooking, one has to sieve the mass to get rid of the stones.

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 493 admin

    @judsoncarroll4 I have two hawthorns in my garden, but after you enumerated all different kinds, I am at a complete loss which ones I have. As far as I know all varieties are useful for heart and circulation. I collect leaves, blossoms and berries.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,469 admin
  • toreytorey Posts: 2,874 admin

    I have spent some time on the internet looking for Cornelian cherry plants but am having quite a bit of difficulty finding any in my part of the world. Found one nursery in Quebec but they want $99 before shipping. Found another on one of our coastal islands but their plants are $55 and because of location, shipping costs are almost as much so still no luck (at least at a reasonable cost). I'd want two so that will double the cost. I will continue my search, though. Maybe seeds but I don't want to wait for them to grow. :)

    While I was looking, I found reference to another Dogwood, Cornus kousa, that also has an edible fruit. Very nice looking tree. But outside of my hardiness zone.

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 455 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey Thanks for the information about red osier dogwood as a medicinal, and the caution to use the bark dried. I know I will never learn all there is to know about the plants on my homestead, but that won't keep me from trying!

    And I just now discovered the reason for the local dogwood/willow confusion about red osier. There is an osier that IS a willow--salix viminalis--and though a European native, it does show up around here, and I think "osier" has just become another name for willow locally. But why it never dawned on me that the red osier I planted was different--with leaves and flowers like a dogwood and not a willow--I can't say....

    Wish I could help with the Cornelian cherry search. The plants I tried some years back were from Gurney's, or one of the similar cut-rate U.S. nurseries, so they were cheap, but then again they didn't survive their first year either. After a number of such failed experiments I stopped buying from the cut-rate outfits. Jung's (jungseed.com) is better quality, mid-level priced, and shows two varieties of cornelian cherry for $29.95 each, but both out of stock right now, and I don't know whether they ship to Canada. Hope you are able to find the plants at a reasonable price up your way!

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,874 admin

    @MaryRowe First Nations in my area refer to Red Osier Dogwood as Red Willow and that is the name I knew if by for years before learning more about botany. :) Other non-indigenous people call it Red Willow, too. Maybe First Nations in your area call it the same and it has stuck.

    I googled the word Osier and it means: 1 : any of various willows (especially Salix viminalis) whose pliable twigs are used for furniture and basketry. 2 : a willow rod used in basketry.

    So that makes sense because Red Osier Dogwood was/is used in basket making, especially for the colour contrast and the ability to weave patterns when used with green or yellow willow whips. I guess the Osier Willow is particularly pliable for baskets, hence the name.

    But it just makes things so confusing when they use the same word to refer to different plants.

    I will keep up with my search. I heard back from two companies but they are sold out for this year. Again, they were quite expensive. I know fruit trees are expensive but didn't expect a shrub to be worth so much.

  • water2worldwater2world Sherry Jochen Sevierville, TNPosts: 325 ✭✭✭

    @udsoncarroll4 Thanks for this post. We have several dogwoods blooming in our yard and I was going to try to find out any herbal uses, and then I found your timely post! Thanks

  • water2worldwater2world Sherry Jochen Sevierville, TNPosts: 325 ✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 i think you must also be a mind-reader!! Thanks again!

  • MissPatriciaMissPatricia Posts: 138 ✭✭✭

    Yes, very timely, as my dogwood is blooming. I learned something new today. I guess that I can use the bark any time of the year though. I'll have to try it in a tea; I wonder how that will taste. A bit of honey will help there.

  • RustBeltCowgirlRustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 835 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm actually keeping an eye on some Dogwoods because I'd like to try rooting some slips. Several are white, but there is one that blooms pink.

    Didn't know about the medicinal aspect.

    Thanks, @judsoncarroll4.

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