|RED OZIER, OR RED TWIG, DOGWOOD...|
|...CORNUS STOLONIFERA, ALONG STAR ROUTE|
While in Ashland yesterday we saw a pickup truck and two fishermen out on the ice several hundred feet from shore. It was raining and the ice was covered with water and slush. I was aghast at them being out on the ice in the rain after more than a week of warm weather. I had to drive around the block to get back to take a photo, which I thought would be valuable for their obituaries or at least a story on the disappearance of the truck, but then I discovered I had left the camera battery in its charger at home. I would have labelled the photo "Dumb and Dumber," but ended up being the dumb one myself.
The red twig, or red osier, dogwood shrub, Cornus stolonifera, in the Dogwood Family (Cornaceae) is particularly beautiful and useful in the native landscape. It usually occupies wet areas but will grow in drier conditions as well. The species name, stolonifera, refers to its growth habit of spreading by stolons, or underground stems. This characteristic makes it very valuable for stabilizing stream banks and wet hillsides, but also renders it pretty invasive in the smaller landscape.
Fortunately there is a horticultural selection of the plant, Cornus 'Baleyi' that does not spread and can be used to good advantage in the home landscape. The red osier also flowers and fruits very nicely, and thus offers year-round visual interest. There is also a yellow-twig dogwood of European origin, Cornus alba, which is a nice contrast to the red in the winter landscape..
The Dogwood Family has a great number of important horticultural and economic species, including the beautiful flowering dogwood of eastern and southern North America, and even another European species, Cornus mas, that bears large, large edible berries. The Japanese dogwood tree, Cornus kousa, has large, attractive flowers, somewhat similar to our native flowering dogwood.
There is even an attractive, flowering and fruiting ground cover dogwood, the native bunchberry, Cornus canadensis. All dogwood species produce berries that are valuable as wildlife food, but most are far too bitter for human consumption.