Dawn Bazely tells us that in North America the Red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) plays a major role in Christmas decorations.

It’s not surprising that the red stems of this native North American shrub are a staple element of seasonal decorations across the continent.

Red-osier dogwood is common in damper areas of forests. My local florist, Candice, told me how she would cut branches from bushes in ditches and woodlots for arrangements.

As well as occurring naturally, red-osier dogwood has been cultivated and is a popular ornamental shrub in north America. Some cultivars with variegated leaves, like the one growing in my garden. Can you spot the black grey squirrel on the fence?

As well as the decorative value, this shrub is useful for stabilizing ditch banks with its extensive root system.  It is readily propagated by stem cuttings that root very readily which makes it cheap to use as well as very pretty!




Photos © Dawn Bazely.

Dr M adds: In addition to the recent adoption for festive decorative use, Cornus sericea has many traditional uses, e.g. Native Americans smoke the inner bark in tobacco mixtures used in the sacred pipe ceremony. The inner bark is used for tanning or drying animal hides. Dreamcatchers, originating with the Potawotami, are made with the stems of the sacred red osier dogwood. Some tribes ate the white, sour berries, while others used the branches for bow and arrow-making, stakes, or other tools.

Although native to N America, Cornus sericea is now widely naturalised in Britain and found in woodland and along riversides, sometimes suckering to produce extensive thickets; also much planted in parkland, amenity plantings and on roadsides and sometimes occurs as an escape on waste ground and marginal land. Check out the BSBI Atlas map here.

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