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Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

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Cornus sericea - L.

Common Name Red Osier Dogwood, Western dogwood
Family Cornaceae
USDA hardiness 2-7
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Shores and thickets[43]. Along streams, rivers and moist sites, 450 - 2700 metres[229].
Range N. America - Newfoundland to New York, west to Alaska and California. Naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Cornus sericea Red Osier Dogwood, Western dogwood

Cornus sericea Red Osier Dogwood, Western dogwood


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Red osier is a common ornamental garden plant with its deep red stems giving interest in the winter. It has potential as a fodder plant and as an industrial biomass crop. It makes an excellent hedge and provides effective erosion control on banks and slopes. It can grow in many different conditions, including wet soil. It is a fast-growing deciduous shrub to 2.5m (8ft) in full sun and semi-shade (light woodland). The fruit is eaten raw or cooked. It is juicy but bitter and unpalatable for many people. Native North Americans mix it with other fruits such as Juneberries (Amelanchier spp) and then dry it for winter use. Red osier was widely employed by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent and tonic bark, using it both internally and externally to treat diarrhoea, fevers, skin problems etc. It is little used in modern herbalism. The cultivar ‘Flaviramea’ has been recommended. Berries are produced in the summer. Red osier is noted as a good Carbon Farming Solution plant. It can be coppiced, used as fodder and act as a living fence. It is a industrial biomass crop.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Cornus sericea is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


C. alba non L. C. stolonifera. Michx. Swida stolonifera. Thelycrania stolonifera.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Ground Cover; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil  Oil

Fruit - raw or cooked[105, 161, 257]. Juicy[101]. Bitter and unpalatable according to some reports[2], it was mixed with other fruits such as juneberries (Amelanchier spp) and then dried for winter use by native North Americans[257]. The fruit can cause nausea[172]. The fruit is up to 9mm in diameter[200]. Seed[101]. No more details are given, but the seeds are quite small and woody, looking rather less than edible[K]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[4].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Analgesic  Astringent  Febrifuge  Miscellany  Poultice  Purgative  Skin  Stimulant  

Red osier dogwood was widely employed by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent and tonic bark, using it both internally and externally to treat diarrhoea, fevers, skin problems etc[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism. The bark and the root bark are analgesic, astringent, febrifuge, purgative, slightly stimulant and tonic[4, 172, 257]. Drying the bark removes its tendency to purge[172]. A decoction has been used in the treatment of headaches, diarrhoea, coughs, colds and fevers[257]. Externally, the decoction has been used as a wash for sore eyes, styes and other infections and also to treat skin complaints such as poison ivy rash and ulcers[257]. The bark shavings have been applied as a dressing on wounds to stop the bleeding[257]. A poultice of the soaked inner bark, combined with ashes, has been used to alleviate pain[257]. The plant is said to have cured hydrophobia[4].

Other Uses

Basketry  Dye  Fibre  Miscellany  Oil  Oil  Teeth

A fibre obtained from the bark is used as cordage[99]. The bark can be twisted into a rope[257]. The powdered bark has been used as a toothpowder to preserve the gums and keep the teeth white[4]. An oil obtained from the seed burns well and can be used in lighting[4]. A red dye can be obtained from the bark mixed with cedar ashes[257]. The branches are pliable, they are used as rims in basket making[99, 257]. The stem wood is very tough and flexible[212]. Plants can be grown as a tall ground cover for colonising large areas. The cultivar 'Flaviramea' has been recommended[208]. Red osier is noted as a good Carbon Farming Solution plant. It can be coppiced, used as fodder and act as a living fence. It is a industrial biomass crop.

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Regional Crop

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility[1], ranging from acid to shallow chalk[200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist soil and a position in sun or partial shade[108]. Succeeds in poorly drained soils[200]. Plants are hardy to about -35°c[184]. A rampant suckering shrub[1]. A number of cultivars have been developed for their ornamental value[182]. This species is closely allied to C. alba[11]. The flowers are very attractive to bees[108]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].

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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed[80, 113]. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors[80, 164]. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 - 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year[164]. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification[80, 164]. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more[164]. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage[78]. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Cornus albaTartarian Dogwood00
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Cornus asperifolia drummondiiRoughleaf Dogwood00
Cornus australis 10
Cornus canadensisCreeping Dogwood, Bunchberry dogwood, Bunchberry42
Cornus capitataBentham's Cornel41
Cornus chinensis 23
Cornus controversaGiant Dogwood, Wedding Cake Tree,21
Cornus coreana 00
Cornus elliptica 41
Cornus floridaFlowering Dogwood22
Cornus hemsleyi 00
Cornus hongkongensis 10
Cornus iberica 20
Cornus kousaJapanese Dogwood, Kousa dogwood, Chinese Dogwood,50
Cornus kousa chinensisJapanese Dogwood50
Cornus macrophyllaLarge-Leaf Dogwood22
Cornus masCornelian Cherry, Cornelian Cherry Dogwood42
Cornus monbeigii 12
Cornus multinervosa 20
Cornus nuttalliiMountain Dogwood, Pacific dogwood, Western Dogwood12
Cornus oblonga 03
Cornus occidentalisWestern Dogwood11
Cornus officinalisShan Zhu Yu, Asiatic dogwood, Japanese Cornel Dogwood43
Cornus poliophylla 12
Cornus quinquenervis 20
Cornus rugosaRound-Leaved Dogwood01
Cornus sanguineaDogwood, Bloodtwig dogwood21


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Readers comment

   Thu Aug 7 2008

If anyone has any info about how to ediblely prepare this plant... email aryllis@gmail.com There are just so many growing in my area, I want to make use of them...! Edible oil for instance? I hear they make soap from the oil in France.

Laurie Lacey   Sun Oct 18 2009

In some areas of North America, Native people used red osier dogwood in tobacco substitute mixtures. The inner bark was almost always used in the famous kinnickinick mixtures. As well, it is interesting to know that the red osier dogwood is the small tree that Native peoples called red willow.

Wild World of Plants A website devoted to Native American medicines (especially Atlantic Canada), medicine walks, medicine trails, and other traditional medicine related information.

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