Dwarf Dogwood – Cornus canadensis

Alaska Wildflowers | White

dwarf dogwood flowering plant in Fairbanks, Alaska
More photos below

Dwarf Dogwood

Cornus canadensis L.

Common Names:
Canadian bunchberry
Bunchberry dogwood
Dwarf cornel
Canadian dwarf cornel
Creeping dogwood

Chamaepericlymenum canadense (L.) Asch. & Graebn.
Cornella canadensis (L.) Rydb.
Cornus canadensis var. dutillyi (Lepage) B. Boivin

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Genus: Cornus L. (dogwood)
Family: Cornaceae (Dogwood family)
Order: Cornales
full classification

Duration: Perennial

Uses: The berry can be eaten, but is very mealy, does not taste good, and has been known to make people sick, especially if ingested in large quantities. Pilgrims used to create a pudding from the berries. Historically the plant has been used by numerous Native American tribes for food, as an analgesic, cold remedy, and even an eye medicine made from a concoction of the roots [1]. None of these uses are medically verified as effective or safe.

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Identification – Dwarf Dogwood

Dwarf dogwood or bunchberry is a herbaceous evergreen, perennial plant standing 5-25 cm (2-10 inches) tall. It grows from a root on a creeping rhizome, often forming a mat of plants in shaded areas. The stems are erect and appressed-hairy. Leaves are oval and located at nodes with 4-7 leaves in the topmost whorl. Lower leaves are typically 2 opposite leaves on the stem.

The flowers are composed of 4 white, or cream bracts (modified leaves, rather than petals) and 4 green to cream-colored sepals. The bracts are greenish on the immature plants before taking on the cream color, occasionally with a purplish or reddish tinge. In the center of these bracts is an inflorescence is a 12-40 white or purple-flowered small (0.5-3mm) pedicels on a single 1-3 cm peduncle.

The common name, bunchberry is due to the cluster of red berries that form near the end of summer (early August for much of Alaska).

Distribution and Habitat

Cornus canadensis is found in all of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and almost all of the northern states in the lower 48. It is found in boreal forests and other coniferous and broadleaf forests. Dwarf dogwood prefers moist soils and is often found in mossy areas.


ClassScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (Plants)
SubkingdomTracheobionta (Vascular plants)
SuperdivisionSpermatophyta (Seed plants)
DivisionMagnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
FamilyCornaceae (Dogwood family)
GenusCornus L. (dogwood)
SpeciesCornus canadensis L. (bunchberry dogwood)

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References and More Reading

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg. 55
Cornus canadensis L. bunchberry dogwood, USDA Database
Cornus canadensis L. – Documented Uses, Native American Ethnobotany Database
Cornus canadensis  L. Taxonomic Serial No.: 27816, ITIS Database
Cornus canadensis – L., Plants For A Future PFAF.org
4. Cornus canadensis Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 118. 1753., Flora of North America

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