photo courtesy of Clay Antieau. (“Copyright Clay Antieau”).
The Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) was adopted in 1956 as British Columbia's floral emblem. The Pacific dogwood is a small to medium size tree that grows six to 25 metres high and flowers in April and May. Its branches grow in a circular pattern around the tree. In the autumn it has brilliant orange foliage and bright red berries that remain after the leaves have fallen.
The Pacific Dogwood is also known as Western Flowering Dogwood, Mountain Dogwood. Pruning, removal or cutting down of this tree is forbidden as it is protected by legislation. A permit must be requested before doing so and proof of disease or emergency need to alter must be provided.
The showy, white flowers are actually four to six modified leaves that surround a cluster of 30 to 40 small, green flowers. Dogwoods usually flower in spring and again in fall.
The elongated dark red berries are edible but bitter. The berries remain on the tree after the leaves have fallen. The bark is smooth and grey, fine-grained, heavy and hard.
In BC it grows on the southern coast and on Vancouver Island south of Port Hardy. (see map below) It is also native to California and parts of Idaho.
Pacific dogwood grows best on deep, coarse, well-drained soils, often as an understory tree beneath Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western hemlock.
The fruit is enjoyed by pigeons, quail, grosbeaks, hermit thrushes, and waxwings. Bears and beavers will eat the fruit and foliage, and deer like to eat the twigs.
The wood has been used for piano keys. Pacific dogwood varieties are attractive ornamentals in coastal gardens.
The botanical name nuttallii is for Thomas Nuttall (1798-1859), a British-born botanist and ornithologist. Cornus means horn and may refer to the hard wood.
Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family Cornaceae – Dogwood family
Genus Cornus L. – dogwood
Species Cornus nuttallii Audubon ex Torr. & A. Gray – Pacific dogwood
The Pacific dogwood is very susceptible to the disease dogwood anthracnose, caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. It slowly kills a tree, one branch at a time and has killed many of the larger plants in the wild thus restricting its use as an ornamental tree.