The red osier dogwood’s bluish-white berries are often enjoyed by birds and mammals.
The best time to see red osier dogwoods’ yellowish-white flowers is between late May and early June.
Most often found in swampy marsh areas, the red osier dogwood flourishes in moist or wet soil.
By Alyssa Abaloz
Thank you for native plants! Each week we showcase a plant that’s native to the continental United States. This week’s plant is red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), a shrub that with its bright-red stems really stands out in barren winter landscapes.
One of the most widespread native plant species, red osier dogwood can be found nearly everywhere in North America, except for the southern Great Plains and the southeast. Hardy in zones 2 – 7, this shrub prefers full to partial sun. Reaching a maximum height of 9 feet, the red osier dogwood grows best in moist conditions, such as riverbanks or wetlands, but tolerates a wide range of conditions.
Dogwood species can be identified by the white pith found inside its petioles, or leaf stalks. Further characterization of red osier dogwood can be found through the dark red color of its stems. “Osier” in French means basket, perhaps referring to the use of this plant’s tough stems in basketry. The term dogwood also nods to Scandinavian roots, where the term “dag” means skewer. “Basket-skewer-wood,” now that’s a mouthful!
This species of dogwood can be enjoyed all year round. Their stems are most easily enjoyed in the winter months, when their reddish hues contrast starkly with the wintery whites and greys. The red osier dogwood’s flowers grow in umbrella-shaped clusters, adding bursts of yellowish-white color to the garden in late May to early June.
Bright red stems emphasize the red osier dogwood’s beauty, especially in the winter.