Dogwood Tree – Beautiful Flowers, Unique Fruits


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Dogwood Tree

Dogwood Tree
Flowering Dogwood (Photo By: Line1 / Wikimedia Commons)

Dogwood trees are trees in the Genus: Cornus.  This Genus consists of 30-60 mostly woody plants some of which grow into small trees.  The Dogwood tree is an extremely common ornamental plant, dogwood trees offer beautiful flowers and unique fruits. Dogwood trees do not get very tall and are ideal for landscape plantings where small trees are desired. Some  are native to the U.S. and some are not, such as the very popular Kousa Dogwood which is native to Asia. Dogwoods all have berries but not all are edible. Dogwood fruit comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. This article will discuss a few of the most common dogwood tree species and how to identify them by flowers or fruits and weather the fruits of that species are edible.

Flowering Dogwood – Not Edible

Flowering Dogwood Berries
Flowering Dogwood Berries

Flowering Dogwood(Cornus florida) is one of the two most common ornamental species of dogwood tree, the other is Kousa Dogwood. This species is native to the eastern United States, It grows well in woodlands as well as landscapes. Flowering dogwoods prefer part shade and are perfectly adjusted to the acidic soil of the northeast.

These dogwood berries are not edible.

Some reports say they are poisonous. The berries are very astringent and bitter.  The red berries grow in clusters and mature into the fall.

Identification – Flowering dogwood leaf / fruit clusters

All Dogwood trees have similar shaped leaves. these are simple leaves with an ovate shape and visible leave veins. Ovate leaf shape is one of the most common leaf shapes so dogwood leaves are not easily identified by their leaves. Flowering Dogwood can be identified by their fruit clusters. These are red fruit clusters with elongated fruits. as mentioned above the fruit is not edible.

White Dogwood and Pink Dogwood

Pink Dogwood Flower
Pink Dogwood (Photo By: Reggaeman / Wikimedia Commons)

Flowering Dogwood(Cornus florida) has very showy flowers in early spring. This species is cultivated very frequently and different varieties have been developed.

Dogwood flower – Or is it?

Technically the showy part of the dogwood flower is not a flower petal but a modified leaf called a bract.  The flowers of Cornus florida are usually white but pink flowered varieties have been developed.  Both pink and white flowered dogwood are very common.

 

Kousa Dogwood – Edible Fruit

Kousa dogwood(Cornus kousa) is another very popular ornamental dogwood. This species is native to Asia, there are a number of varieties with slightly different flower and fruit characteristics.  Kousa dogwood are planted because of their small size and relatively good pest resistance. They get flowers in the spring and fruits in late summer and early fall.

Kousa Dogwood Berries
Kousa Dogwood Fruit

This dogwood fruit is edible

The fruits of this species are edible and one of tastiest and prolific wild edibles that can be found in the landscape. Although not truly a “wild” edible because kousa dogwood does not naturalize frequently in most areas.  Part of the trick to harvesting kousa dogwood berries is choosing berries at the right stage. Read THIS article on kousa dogwood if you’re interested in more information on how to know when kousa dogwood berries are ready to eat.

Kousa Dogwood can be identified by 2 primary factors. The bark and the fruits.  As kousa dogwood gets older the lower bark peels and creates a unique pattern similar to sycamore tree bark.  The kousa dogwood berries are unique in size and shape.  They are red berries formed into an approx, 1″ diameter fruit, this is technically an aggregate fruit but looks like a single large berry. The outer skin on the berry somewhat resembles lychee fruit.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood – Edible Fruit

Cornelian cherry dogwood(Cornus mas) is another dogwood tree that is commonly sold as a landscape tree.  This tree is not used nearly as often as the other species mentioned above, but it still has some interesting potential in the landscape. This tree is native to Eurasia but grows very well in the eastern U.S. One of the most fascinating features of this plant is it’s early flowering period. This plant flowers very early, sometimes before forsythia, it also has small yellow flowers not unlike forsythia.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood Berries
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood Berries (Photo by: Art Anderson / Wikimedia Commons)

The fruits of this species are edible. They are a single dark red smooth berry when ripe in summer. There is one large seed in the middle of each berry but you still get a significant amount from each fruit . They have a good taste but are very sour.  I happen love sour fruits so they are one of my favorites.  Cornelian cherry dogwood trees frequently get covered in berries so  it is possible to use them in pies and jams.

Even though the leaves and bark are very similar, distinguishing this tree from flowering dogwood is easy.  This tree has a completely different flower and fruit schedule then the flowering dogwood. Cornelian cherry dogwood flowers and fruits much earlier. So at any point throughout the year except for winter you should be able to see flowers or fruits or expect to see them depending on which tree your looking at.  Since the berries and leaves on this tree are not distinctive enough compared to other plants in the landscape it’s recommended that if you believe you are looking at a cornelian cherry dogwood then you should compare that plant directly to an identification guide.

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FACW – Discover This Amazing Natural Resource


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Swamp Milkweed
Swamp Milkweed Pod

FACW plants are plants that can to grow in wetlands but may also be found outside of wetlands.  These are versatile plants that can grow in many conditions.  This includes trees such as red maple(Acer rubrum), Serviceberry (Amelanchier), river birch (Betula nigra), certain types of dogwoods (Cornus) and a vast assortment of other trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Versatile plants such as these are valuable natural resources that may be able to thrive despite changing weather patterns.

Wetland Indicator Status

FACW is a category of the wetland indicator status. The wetland indicator status of a plant is a system of categorizing plants based on likelihood of being found in a wetland environment. A list of approximately 7000 plants was compiled in 1988 by the U.S. fish and wildlife service in conjunction with a federal inter-agency review panel. This list had the lengthy name of the national list of plant species that occur in wetlands.  There are 5 categories of estimated probability of a plant species naturally growing in a wetland environment:

  • OBL– Obligate wetland  (estimated probability > 99%)
  • FACW– Facultative wetland  (estimated probability 67% – 99%)
  • FAC– Facultative(estimated probability 34% – 66%)
  • FACU– Facultative upland  (estimated probability probability 1% – 33%).
  • UPL– Obligate upland  (estimated probability < 1%)

FACW

FACW plants
FACW

Facultative wetland plants are plants such as pennsylvania bittercress that are very likely to be found in a wetland but occasionally grow in non-wetland areas. Some plants are considered FACW in some regions but considered FAC in other regions.  This usually depends on weather patterns and climate.

Recent Changes

There have been subsequent updates to the list in 1996 and 1998. In 2012 the national wetland plant list replaced the national list of plant species that occur in wetlands. The new list can be search here at the department of agriculture website. This new list is a very useful list for finding out where specific plants grow, this can be used for finding specific species or for narrowing down species for identification.

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3 of The Best Free Android Apps for Wild edibles and Foraging


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phoneleafThere are a few free android apps in Google Play Store that focus on teaching you to find, identify, or prepare wild edibles.  Below are 3 of the best apps for learning about wild edibles and foraging.   I will explain the differences and What you should expect from each one.

Wild Edibles Lite
By WinterRoot LLC and Wildman Steve Brill

Edible and Medicinal Plants
By Government Conspiracy

Foraging Flashcard Lite
By WinterRoot LLC and Wildman Steve Brill

I intended to review Edible and Medicinal Plants By Clandestine Research but had technical problems just trying to open it. It is .pdf based, and the .pdf wouldn’t open in my reader. Others have had the same problem.

 

Wild Edibles Lite
By WinterRoot LLC and Wildman Steve Brill

Wild Edibles Lite By WinterRoot LLC and Wildman Steve Brill is by far the app that contains the most information per plant. The lite version features 20 plants and the full version features more than 200 plants which is more than any other app. For each plant there are multiple pictures and up to 14 categories: General Info, Habitat, Seasons, How to Spot, Positive Identification, Similar Plants, Similar Plants Explained, Cautions, Harvesting, Food Uses, Nutrition, Recipes, Medicinal Uses, and Poisonous Lookalikes. The inclusion of recipes for each plant makes this app truly unique compared to the others (most if not all the recipes are vegan). This app features only plants that grow in temperate climates, some of them happen to grow in tropical climates as well. The plant selection also focuses on ease of identifying, harvesting, and preparing, so these should be the best wild edibles for beginners as well as experienced foragers.  Even though one of the other free apps has more plants that Wild Edibles Lite, this is the one you want if you live in a temperate climate. Wildman Steve Brill has written numerous books about foraging and wild edibles and his vast knowledge shows with this app.  If you’re serious about learning to identify and forage for wild edibles then you’ll probably want the full version with more than 200 plants, as well as about 65 minor plants including lookalikes, similar plants, and poisonous plants, no other app has that many plants, and as mentioned before there is a lot of info for each plant.

 

Edible and Medicinal Plants
By Government Conspiracy

Edible and Medicinal Plants By Government Conspiracy contains more plants than any other free app. there were 110 plants and  each plant has up to 5 categories of information: Description, Habitat and Distribution, Edible Parts, Other Uses, and Cautions as well as one or two photos per plant.  The plant selection is broad and diverse.  Its difficult to know which plants grow in your area and which ones don’t. There are literally plants from the arctic to the tropics and from mountains to swamps.  This app would be good for someone who is a world traveler and is likely to find themselves in survival scenarios, but someone like that would already have extensive survival knowledge to begin with I would hope.  You can  find a good amount of useful information from this app, but it would probably take some time sifting through all the plants and cross referencing online to see what grows in your area. I know for myself personally I found a few edible and medicinal uses for plants in my area that I had not previously known.

 

Foraging Flashcard Lite
By WinterRoot LLC and Wildman Steve Brill

Foraging Flashcard Lite By WinterRoot LLC and Wildman Steve Brill is a great little app for helping you to memorize plant names.  It is simple and straightforward.  It doesn’t give any written information on these plants but learning to match the name with the plant is important for foragers since all the plants in this app are very common wild edibles. Besides for the lite version there are 5 more apps in the series all focusing on different identification features or seasons.


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