Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
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.
- Plant Size: up to 20 cm (8 inches) tall
- Duration: Perennial small Shrub (a Subshrub)
- Leaf Shape: Ovate
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: Opposite, but appear to be a whorl of six leaves. However, there are actually two opposite leaf nodes that have three leaves coming from each node - the slightly to moderately bigger central leaf, and the smaller side leaves
- Leaf Size: 2.5 to 9cm long (1 to 3 1/2 inches) and 1.5 to 5cm (5/8 to 2 inches) wide
- Leaf Margin: Entire (smooth edged)
- Leaf Notes: Colour is green to yellow-green hue, in the fall they turn red (dark purplish red) first in the veins, then the whole leaf. Leaf veins are obvious and typical for a Dogwood - that is, the veins sweep toward the tip of the leaf
- Flowers: When you first look at the flower, what you think you see is a single white (starts out green) four petalled flower with a tiny flower cluster in the center. The four outer "petals" are actually bracts, while the real flower is the little flower cluster in the center of the white bracts. That is where the berries will form.
- Fruit: The berries (actually drupes) start out as green, and turn a bright red to orange hued red in July to August. The have one or two oval shaped stones. Each drupe is about 5mm (little under 1/4 inch)
- Habitat: Cool, moist, shaded conifer, deciduous, and mixed woods. Tolerant of varying acidity levels. Likes areas of deep organic soils, peaty soils and decaying wood. More likely to find this small shrub where the soil stays moist all year, like close to bogs and wet areas.
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
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.)
Why does this site have ads?
Originally the content in this site was a book that was sold through Amazon worldwide. However, I wanted the information to available to everyone free of charge, so I made this website. The ads on the site help cover the cost of maintaining the site and keeping it available.
This site is hosted by HostUpon. I am very thankful to them for all the patient technical support I received when I first set up my websites and had no idea what I was doing. I am happy to recommend them.
The site is designed to work with all browsers and is specifically designed to be highly functional on smartphones. I kept the site simple, with a clean page design to make using on a smartphone easy, quick & efficient. The Bootstrap framework is responsive, and automatically scales to any screen size.
If you encounter any problem using this site on any device, I would appreciate knowing. Let me know by using the contact page. Tell me what the problem is, and what device you are using it on.