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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

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Canadian Bunchberry. (Norman Melvin, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

Season: July & August

Urban, Rural or Both: Rural mainly - woodlands

Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). Also known as the Creeping Dogwood. This is the smallest of the Dogwood (Cornus) genus. It acts like a ground-cover plant, carpeting areas growing about 15cm (6 inches) tall on average. This is another one of those plants that forms what are known as clonal colonies, that is, all the plants in one area are all from the same roots (rhizomes in this case) with plants sprouting up from them, all genetically the same plant even though above ground they look like a group of individual plants.

The leaves have the Dogwood leaf look, in that the veins all sweep toward the tip of the leaf. There are six leaves, two larger ones, four smaller ones. Sometimes however, the bigger two are not that much bigger than the other four, so it looks like there are six leaves pretty much the same size. All six leaves come from the plant in the same spot, giving a whorl (circle) of six leaves. If you look very closely at how the leaves attach to the stem of the plant, you will notice the two bigger leaves attached to the stem in an opposite pair, and on each side where the two attach, there is a leaf on each side coming out.

Never eat the berries raw - they cause the skin to become itchy where the raw berry touches. They can be good to nothing tasting - the taste is always very mild. Sometimes a little apple like, sometimes, almost no flavor at all. Best for adding to other jams and jellies: cook with some water, separate the pits (food mill or sieve), then add to the other jams & jellies. They will help the other fruit gel (Bunchberries have high natural pectin levels). It works as well as store bought pectin, and the flavor is so gentle, the other fruit's flavors will stay the same. Best to think of them as a natural ingredient (pectin) as opposed to a flavor themselves, and you will not be disappointed.

Growing this plant in your home garden:

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Canadian Bunchberry page.


Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Canadian Bunchberry. (By: Neelix.)


Canadian Bunchberry in flower before the berries. (Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.)


Drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 664.)

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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching

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