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Spring Joy (Cornus nutallii)

Spring Joy (Cornus nutallii)

Pacific Dogwood

The Pacific dogwood, Cornus nuttallii (syn. Benthamidia nuttallii), is a species of dogwood native to western North America from the lowlands of southern British Columbia to the mountains of southern California, with an inland population in central Idaho. Cultivated examples are found as far north as Haida Gwaii. It is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree, reaching 10-25 m tall.

The small flowers are in a dense cluster surrounded by large white bracts.

The leaves are opposite, simple, oval, 8-12 cm long, and 5-8 cm broad. The flowers are individually small and inconspicuous, 2-3 mm across, produced in a dense, rounded, greenish-white flowerhead 2 cm diameter; the 4-8 large white "petals" are actually bracts, each bract 4-7 cm long and broad. The fruit is a compound pink-red berry about 3 cm diameter, containing 50-100 small seeds; it is edible, though not very palatable.

Like the related flowering dogwood, it is very susceptible to dogwood anthracnose, a disease caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. This has killed many of the larger plants in the wild and also restricted its use as an ornamental tree.

Cornus nuttallii is named after Thomas Nuttall, an English botanist and zoologist who worked in North America in the nineteenth century.

Some Plateau Indian tribes used the bark as a laxative and emetic.

Government usage

It is the provincial flower of British Columbia. It was once protected by law in the province (in an act which also protected Rhododendron macrophyllum and Trillium ovatum), but this was repealed in 2002

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 14, 2013
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Erik van den Ham