Cornus canadensis L.
Bunchberry Dogwood, Canadian Bunchberry
Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)
Synonym(s): Chamaepericlymenum canadense, Cornella canadensis, Cornus canadensis var. dutillyi
USDA Symbol: COCA13
The slender 3-6 in. stalks of this perennial, woodland ground cover are topped by a whorl of oval, pointed leaves above which rises a white to greenish, dogwood blossom. Erect stems grow in extensive low patches, with 1 whorl of leaves at top and, just above, a cluster of tiny greenish flowers surrounded by 4 ovate white or pinkish bracts. The flower cluster resembles a single large flower held on a short stalk above leaves. A cluster of bright red berries follows. The leaves, which are dark-green and shiny in summer, become wine-red in fall. It spreads by underground stems.
Among the smallest of a genus of mostly shrubs and trees, Bunchberry makes an excellent ground cover in the moist woodland garden and is equally attractive in flower or fruit. Its natural range extends from Greenland across northern North America to northeast Asia. In the continental US, it is limited mostly to mountainous regions. This showy wildflower and Northern Dwarf Cornel (C. suecica) of the northern forests are the only herbs in the dogwood group, the other members being trees or shrubs. C. suecica ranges across northern Eurasia and much of northern North America, as far south as the St. Lawrence River and as far east as Nova Scotia. It has small purple flowers surrounded by 4 bracts.
The genus cornus is Latin for a horn.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 10 inches tall.
Leaf: Dark Green
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
DistributionUSA: AK , CO , CT , IA , ID , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MT , ND , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , SD , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Greenland across northern North America to northeast Eurasia. Lab. to AK, s. to MD, VA mts., OH, MN, SD, NM mts. & n. CA.
Native Habitat: Coniferous & mixed woods; thickets; cedar swamps; damp openings
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Damp, cool, acid soil or peat moss.
Conditions Comments: Bunchberry makes an excellent ground cover in cool, damp, acidic places. Mulching with peat moss or pine needles is beneficial.
BenefitUse Food: In late summer, dense clusters of small, red berries replace the flowers. Some people enjoy these juicy fruits, with their crunchy little seeds, but others consider them mealy and tasteless. Bunchberries can be eaten as a trail nibble or added to puddings, preserves and sauces. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Sow seeds in fall or provide cold stratification. Avoid drying if possible. Plant 3/4" deep. Plants will not flower until the third year. Cuttings, stuck in a 1:1 sand/peat mixture, should be taken below ground level in July or August.
Seed Collection: Approximate collection date in northern U.S.: mid Jul to mid Aug. Seeds can be allowed to dry out before sowing. Seeds can be stored or sown without extracting them from the fruit.
Seed Treatment: This species requires or benefits from a three month period of cold moist stratification in the refrigerator.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
October 26, 2009
I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
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National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Cornus canadensis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cornus canadensis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cornus canadensis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-01
Research By: TWC Staff