Cornus canadensis
Common Name: bunchberry 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Cornaceae
Native Range: Greenland to Alaska
Zone: 2 to 6
Height: 0.25 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade including sun-dappled conditions in close to full shade. Avoid dry soils. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 2-6. Best performance is in cool to cold climates in the shade of trees and shrubs. Plants generally do not perform well in the hot summer conditions found in the central to southern parts of the U.S. south of USDA Zone 6. Intolerant of foot traffic.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus canadensis, commonly known as dwarf cornel or bunchberry, is a shrubby deciduous ground cover that typically grows to 4- 9” tall and spreads in the landscape by creeping rhizomes. This dwarf species of dogwood produces the same shaped leaves and flowers found on the familiar Cornus florida tree except in smaller size. In North America, it is primarily native to coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests throughout Canada and the northern U.S., south in the Appalachians to Virginia and in the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico. This is a circumpolar species which is also native to eastern Asia.

Conspicuously-veined, oval to elliptic, glossy, medium to dark green leaves (to 1-2” long) are located near the stem tops in false whorls of 4-6. Red to purple fall color. Flowers emerge in late spring. Each flower consists of a tiny greenish-yellow umbel surrounded by four showy, oval, petal-like white bracts (each bract to 1” long). Flowers give way to terminal clusters of berry-like drupes (1/4” diameter) which ripen in August to bright red with good persistence on the plant until late fall unless earlier consumed by birds. Drupes are edible for humans.

Genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn in probable reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry.

Specific epithet is in reference to the native habitat of this plant which includes Canada.

Common name of dwarf cornel refers to the red fruits which resemble in color the semi-precious gemstone carnelian (or cornelian). Common name of bunchberry refers to the fruit clusters (berries in bunches).

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Can be difficult to establish. Good resistance to dogwood anthracnose.

Garden Uses

Attractive native ground cover for shady areas of the landscape.