2016 March 19

Here’s another plant that was growing in the woods adjacent to the Lake Superior beach on July 12, 2015. The radial arrangement of leaves and the four-petaled “flower” is distinctive – it is Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis


The reason I put “flower” in quotes up there, is that this is not a single flower at all, it is a whole cluster of them. The “petals” are not really part of the flower, they are actually modified leaves (kind of like the red leaves on a poinsetta plant).


Each of the little, nondescript flowers will make a separate spherical fruit that will turn red when it ripens in the fall, and these fruits will be clustered together in a bunch. The fruits are edible, if you actually want something to eat that badly (and don’t mind that most of the fruit is actually a pair of seeds), and are supposed to taste a lot like tiny little apples.

While this is a low, creeping plant, its closest relatives are actually the dogwoods, which are mostly small trees or large shrubs. I think this is another of those cool-climate plants that does well around here because it can hide completely under our heavy snow cover for the coldest part of the winter.

3 Responses
  1. March 21, 2016

    Way cool about the flowers. I imagine it’s a lot like a pomegranate in terms of seed / fruit ratio.

  2. March 22, 2016

    Yes, a lot of wild fruits have a really high ratio of seed to fruit. One doesn’t fully appreciate just how much our food fruits have been bred for size and deliciousness until they are compared with their small, seedy, and generally pretty sour wild wild ancestors.

    I bet that if someone were to breed bunchberry for increased fruit size, it would be possible to get fruits the size of grapes without too much difficulty.

  3. April 1, 2016

    And eat genetically modified food? No way! I’m not going to be a slave to multinational agro-corporations and end up with cancer. Now where are those granola bars I bought from Whole Foods? I love the dried fruit they put in them!

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