General: Low, trailing perennial herb from a rhizome with a somewhat woody base; stems erect, solitary, simple, 5-25 cm tall, minutely hairy, greenish to reddish, leafless or with bracts on the lower part.
Leaves: Evergreen more or less, 4-7 in a terminal whorl, oblong egg-shaped to diamond-shaped, short-stalked, 2-8 cm long, green above, whitish beneath, lateral veins arising from the midvein in the lower third of the leaf.
Flowers: Inflorescence of a solitary, stalked, umbrella-shaped cluster subtended by 4 white to pinkish or purplish-tinged, broadly to narrowly egg-shaped bracts; petals 1-1.5 mm long, greenish-white with a purplish tinge.
Fruits: Fleshy drupes, 6-8 mm long, bright coral red when mature, usually several.
Notes: Hybrids between C. canadensis and C. suecica have been treated as either a variety of C. canadensis (var. intermedia Farr.) or as a separate species (C. unalaschkensis Ledeb.). The latter taxon is a common tetraploid with features between its parents.
An excellent native groundcover for part shade and loose humusy soils. Produces lovely white dogwood flowers and red berries. Fall foliage becomes nicely tinted with red and burgundy.
Coniferous woods, thickets and damp clearings in peaty soils.
Note Author: Gary Lewis, Phoenix Perennials
There are three species of bunchberry in British Columbia: Cornus canadensis, Cornus suecica, and Cornus unalaschkensis. All three species are very similar in appearance, and are not easy to separate, often requiring microscopic work. However there are some distinguishing characteristics that are readily visible. Griffith and Ganders (1983) provides the following description of the three species:
"[Cornus canadensis] has four to six leaves at the top of its stem and greenish-white petals (not the showy white bracts, but the tiny petals inside the bracts).....[Cornus suecica] has three to six more or less equal pairs of leaves along it's short stem....the petals are purple or at least partially purple......[Cornus unalaschkensis] has flowers like those of [Cornus suecica], but has whorls of leaves like those of [Cornus canadensis]."
Ecological Framework for Cornus canadensis
The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range. (Updated August, 2013)
A shade-tolerant, sub montane to subalpine, Asian and transcontinental North American forb. Occurs in boreal and cool temperate climates. Scattered to plentiful in the mossy understory of coniferous forests on water-shedding and water-receiving sites, on nitrogen-poor soils. Often inhabits decaying wood, sides of large stumps and tree trunks, and topographic prominences in nutrient-poor wetlands. Oxylophytic species characteristic of Mor humus forms.
Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2020. E-Flora BC:
Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia [eflora.bc.ca]. Lab for
Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed:
2021-04-16 9:28:19 PM
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