red osier dogwood

(Cornus sericea ssp. sericea)

Conservation Status
red osier dogwood
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Red osier dogwood is an erect, perennial shrub that rises usually on multiple stems. It can be up to 13 tall and up to 1¼ in diameter, but is usually no more than 10 in height. It rises from a shallow, branching, woody root system.

Its form is highly dependent on its habitat. When growing in full sun, numerous stems form a dense, compact, rounded shrub about as wide as it is tall; the individual stems have many lateral branches; and the leaves are thicker and smaller. When growing in shade, numerous stems form open sprawling shrubs with few branches, and the leaves are thinner and larger. When growing in a dense grassy area the stems tend to be solitary and unbranched.

Shrubs reproduce vegetatively in three ways. In a process called layering, shrubs produce stems that lie on the ground with only the tips ascending (decumbent). A decumbent stem roots at a node, produces an aerial stem, and eventually detaches, forming a new plant. Shrubs also produce aboveground runners (stolons) that root at the nodes and produce new plants. Stolons can be up to 10 long. Finally, lower branches may droop to the ground, root at the tip, and send up a new shoot. Vegetative reproduction often results in dense thickets.

Stems may be erect, arched, or decumbent, and are usually branched toward the top. In a colony, the middle stems tend to be upright while those on the periphery are arched, forming a rounded clump.

First-year twigs are slightly hairy and and have a few raised, corky bumps (lenticels). They are dark red at first, sometimes green splotched with red, becoming greenish-red then grayish-green as the season progresses. They are not streaked or spotted. Second-year twigs are similar in color but hairless. In winter the twigs turn red. The common name of this plant refers to the color of the twigs in winter. The pith is white and solid. The leaf scars are narrow, U-shaped, and slightly raised. Each leaf scar has three bundle scars and is connected by a thin line to the leaf scar on the opposite side of the twig. The terminal bud is egg-shaped and is covered by two sharply pointed, abutting but not overlapping scales. The scales have whitish tips, appearing frosted. Lateral buds are similar but smaller.

The bark is red, greenish-red, or yellowish-green, becoming red in winter. Older bark is light brown and rough.

The leaves are opposite, deciduous, and evenly distributed along the branch. The leaf stalk is hairy and to 1 long. The leaf blade is egg-shaped to elliptical, 2 to 4 long, and 1 to 2 wide. It is rounded or tapered at the base and tapered to a sharp point at the tip, usually with concave sides along the tip. On each side of the midrib there are usually 5 or 6, occasionally 7, conspicuous veins that curve upward toward the tip of the leaf. The veins are depressed on the upper leaf surface, giving the leaf a puckered appearance. The upper surface is dark green and covered with short, straight, appressed hairs; longer, soft, spreading hairs; or both. The lower surface is whitish due to a waxy film (glaucous), but is otherwise similar to the upper surface. The margins are untoothed. The leaves turn red to purple in the fall.

The inflorescence is a dense, flat-topped to shallowly convex, branched, ¾to 2¾ in diameter, to 1¼ tall cluster (cyme) of 35 to 150 flowers at the ends of branches. The flowers are on hairy, 1 16 to ¼ long stalks (pedicels). The flowers appear twice each season, first in mid-May to early June, then again in July to mid-August.

Each flower has four sepals, four petals, four stamens, and a well-developed style. The sepals are fused for most of their length and separated at the tip into four minute teeth. The petals are creamy white, narrowly oblong lance-shaped, and to 3 16 long. The stamens are longer than the petals. The flowers are fragrant.

The fruit is a berry-like, 3 16 to 516 in diameter drupe with one seed. It is green initially, turning white as it matures. It matures in early July (first fruiting) to mid-September (second fruiting). The pedicels persist, remaining on the plant in winter.




3 to 13


Flower Color


Creamy white


Similar Species


Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) first-year twigs are brown. Bark and second-year twigs are gray and remain gray in winter. The pith is whitish or tan. The leaf stalks are no more than long and are sparsely hairy or hairless. The leaves have no more than four veins per side. The leaf undersides are pale green but not glaucous.

Silky dogwood (Cornus obliqua) first and second-year twigs are greenish-purple, purplish, or reddish-purple. Third-year twigs are gray. The bark is gray. Bark and do not turn red in winter. The pith second-year and older twigs os brown. The leaf stalks are no more than ¾ long. The leaves have no more than five veins per side. The leaf undersides are pale green but not glaucous. The fruit turns unevenly from white to blue or bluish-purple when ripe. In late summer they are dark blue with white blotches.


Moist. Swamps, marshes, fens, meadows, lake shores, river banks, and ditch banks. Full to partial sun. Shade intolerant.




Two flushes: Mid-May to early June and July to mid-August


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 28, 29, 30.








Very common

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Cornales (dogwoods, hydrangeas, and allies)  


Cornaceae (dogwood)  
  Subfamily Cornoideae  


Cornus (dogwoods)  
  Subgenus Kraniopsis  
  Species Cornus sericea (red osier dogwood)  

Subordinate Taxa






Cornus alba

Cornus alba var. baileyi

Cornus alba var. interior

Cornus alba ssp. stolonifera

Cornus baileyi

Cornus instolonea

Cornus interior

Cornus sericea var. interior

Cornus sericea ssp. stolonifera

Cornus stolonifera

Cornus stolonifera var. baileyi

Cornus stolonifera var. interior

Swida instolonea

Swida sericea

Swida stolonifera


Common Names


American dogwood


red osier dogwood

red twig dogwood

red-osier dogwood

redosier dogwood












Bundle scar

Tiny raised area within a leaf scar, formed from the broken end of a vascular bundle.



Reclining on the ground but with the tips ascending.



A fleshy fruit with a single hard, stone-like core, like a cherry or peach.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



A method of propagation where a stem or branch comes into permanent contact with the soil, sprouts roots, and then detaches from the main plant.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antennae. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



The spongy cells in the center of the stem.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



An above-ground, creeping stem that grows along the ground and produces roots and sometimes new plants at its nodes. A runner.

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    red osier dogwood      


    red osier dogwood   red osier dogwood  


    red osier dogwood      

Leaf Upper Side

    red osier dogwood   red osier dogwood  
    red osier dogwood      

Leaf Underside

    red osier dogwood      

Stem in Late Summer

    red osier dogwood      


    red osier dogwood   red osier dogwood  



  Cornus stolonifera
Blake C. Willson
  Cornus stolonifera  

Red Osier Dogwood

  Red Osier Dogwood
  Red Osier Dogwood  

Copyright DianesDigitals

  Cornus sericea (Red-osier Dogwood)
Allen Chartier
  Cornus sericea (Red-osier Dogwood)  



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Other Videos
  red osier dogwood

Published on Mar 31, 2012

edible and medicinal uses of the red-osier dogwood

  Wild EDIBLES Of The Month - Part Five Of August

Published on Sep 3, 2012

Please like, share, comment and subscribe. Thanks for the views, comments and support.

Cornus sericea, Red-osier dogwood, red willow - an easy to recognize plant that has a multitude of uses and a wide range of habitat.

Red willow is not truly a willow, but behaves like one and has properties similar to willows. That's why I call it red willow. Name association helps in memorizing a plant's uses, habitat and such..

Red willow covers ALL four basic and even some advanced requirements of wilderness survival by providing food, fire, shelter, medicine and wilderness first-aid. The bright red branches of Red willow create a sea of color at all times of year which is an easy way to spot potential water sources from great distances, even from satellite imagery and aerial photos. It is a good indicator of low swampy areas which can be useful in land navigation without a contour map or compass. Red willow is used for hunting and fishing, good for making traps, arrows, and such.

Red willow has a broad range of habitat throughout most of North America including Alaska, Canada, United States, and south into Mexico. Varieties of dogwood that are closely related and bear the same properties can be found worldwide.

I'm pretty sure you can find a variety of Red willow where you live, even if that variety may be yellow instead of red. lol

I'm not going to sit here and type all the specific uses for Red-osier dogwood, instead, I'll strongly recommend that you become intimately familiar with this plant and discover it's uses for yourself. There is an ocean of information available both online and in books regarding Cornus sericea, red willow, or Red-osier dogwood.

I first learned about this plant from Mors Kochanski in his book which is simply titled "BUSHCRAFT".

A little known fact about the medicinal use of Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.

And, I finally arrived at the mushroom hunting woods. A little discussion on the time it took to get here on bicycle vs. automobile, and the obstacles I faced along the way.

MADDOG tree and shrub identification video:

Using Red willow as a pain reliever for toothaches:

Using Red willow to cook food:

Tags: "garden harvest" MiWilderness Michigan garden hunt gather forage edible mushroom spore print plant identification how to DIY prepper acorn tannin prepared survival skills bushcraft food preservation cooking pressure canner basics pickle fish gun safety sharpen knife strop ax kit gear review field test outdoor sports camp hike bike canoe tarp tent primitive technology botany naturalist organic herbal remedy folk medicine living history permaculture wildcraft home canning guide homegrown homemade maple syrup evaporator buckskin moccasin wood carving Red willow red-osier dogwood MADDOG UET universal edibility test "survival manual"

  Cansa'sa (red dogwood)
Nature's Intuitive Beauty

Uploaded on Nov 19, 2008

Cansa'sa,(Dakota name)a species of red dogwood,'red osier dogwood'(cornus stolonifers)it likes running waters.The white flowers resemble a star,followed by white berrys.The bark has a vivid scarlet red color in the winter fadeing to a little after spring.

Its very good for pollinator habitat and the berrys are well liked by birds.

Very Beautiful Bush/tree,i have seen some very ancient ones with branches hanging down to the ground,rooting and spreading by runners.(a beautiful bird singer helping narrate)




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Afton State Park

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