Bunchberry is a low creeping dogwood shrub native to eastern Asia, Greenland, and North America (circumpolar). It Occurs in cool to cold, moist and/or high elevation sites; often found in woodland understory, on rotted logs, in thickets, or damp clearings. It spreads by rhizomes and is well suited as a groundcover in naturalized, woodland, or rock gardens.
Bunchberry has the same leaf and flower shape as its small tree relative the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). Leaves are oval to elliptic, dark to medium green, glossy and with noticeable veins. Their arrangement is opposite, appearing to be whorled at stem ends. Fall colour can be a moderate to nice red or purple tone.
From May to June, showy flower like bracts appear in fours, surrounding less noticeable green true flowers at their center. pollination occurs by insects and clusters of berry like drupes follow flowering. Drupes ripening to bright red in August and persisting until fall if not eaten by birds. The fruit is showy and are edible to both wildlife and humans. Although somewhat dry and mealy, the fruit can reveal some sweetness when cooked and are used in jams, pies, and puddings.
Bunchberry prefers slightly acidic, moist, well drained loam or peat soils and is not tolerant of soil compaction. The shrub tolerates rabbit and deer and has good resistance to dogwood anthracnose. Care should be taken for the first few years when planting as bunchberry does take special care and time to establish.
There are some medicinal properties, namely in the form of teas made from the leaves or roots. Tea can be made from the leaves to treat fevers, aches, kidney and lung issues, among other things. A tea made from the roots can be used to treat colic in children, and to clean and treat sore eyes.
Missouri Botanical Garden. (n.d.). Cornus canadensis. Retrieved from http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=279331
Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). (n.d.). Cornus canadensis. Retrieved from https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/corcan/all.html
Plants For A Future. (2018). Cornus canadensis - L. Retrieved from https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Cornus+canadensis