Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), Truckee River, Reno. Photo: K.McCutcheon.
Redosier dogwood live close to rivers and streams, with strong root systems that help hold banks in place. They are tolerant of flooding, and able to survive long periods with roots underwater. Dogwood also have impressive tolerance for cold: in laboratory studies, red-osier dogwood were able to survive temperatures as low as -130oF (Gucker 2012).
The fruit of the Redosier dogwood look like berries, but are actually classified as drupes – fruit containing a pit, like a cherry or plum. Birds feed on the fruit, and use the shrub for nest sites or for cover. Bears, small mammals and many species of birds feed on the fruit. Beaver, deer, rabbits and other small mammals feed on the stems (Gucker 2012).
The Paiute name for this plant is “atsa wish tsi danabu”, and Washoe is “badosanich”. Local tribes traditionally used the inner bark of this plant for a tea with properties of quinine (Reed 1962). Other Native American tribes sometimes ate the fruit of the dogwood, mixed with serviceberries and sugar. The stong, straight stems were used in weaving or arrow-making, and twigs were pounded and used for toothbrushes (Gucker 2012). The fruit of Redosier dogwood is bitter tasting and may be toxic in large quantities (Vizgirdas & Rey-Visgirdas 2006).
Links & References:
Gucker, Corey. 2012. Cornus sericea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Reed, F. 1962. Uses of Native Plants by Nevada Indians. Carson City, NV: Department of Education, State of Nevada.
USDA. 2006. Redosier Dogwood. In: Plant Guide, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS National Plant Data Center.
USDA Plants Database: Cornus sericea L., Redosier dogwood.
Vizgirdas, R. S., & Rey-Visgirdas, E. M. 2006. Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press.