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Red-osier & Silky Dogwood Fruits Ripening

10-6-15 silky dogwood 291Some of the most prolific flowering shrubs in the Northeast are dogwoods. In the spring, their flowers attract attention and at this time of year their colorful fruit stands out. There are many species of dogwood, two of which are Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum). These two shrubs can be hard to tell apart, as they both have white flowers, red stems and similar foliage. In the fall, however, the color of their fruit differs, as does their pith, or central stem tissue. The mature berries of Red-osier Dogwood are dull white and its pith is also white. Silky Dogwood’s blue berries have white blotches, and its stem and branches have a salmon-colored pith.

The fruit of these dogwoods and others is an extremely important source of food for many migrating songbirds, as well as resident birds. Wood ducks, Northern Cardinals, Eastern Bluebirds, Gray Catbirds, Purple Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, American Robins, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Wood and Hermit Thrushes, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, Cedar Waxwings and Downy Woodpeckers all consume dogwood berries.

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4 responses

  1. Thanks for profiling these challenging look-alikes. With all the rivers and wetlands in Concord, silky dogwood is abundant here…though red-osier relatively rare locally. A couple other features that I found useful when surveying our town for locations of red-osier dogwood in late winter and early spring (one of the easiest times to spot them) were location and overall color cast of their woody structure. While silky dogwood seems to prefer woodland edges and shrubby borders in floodplains and low, wet ground and can tolerate some summer shade, red-osier is more prevalent in swampy or wet meadow areas with little to no shade. Silky dogwoods deeper wine-red color in its newer growth grays out with age as the many vertical white lenticels multiply in the lower portions of its branches. Red-osier dogwood’s somewhat brassier red color is consistently apparent from stem tip to base, even with age. The warm colorful glow of both bring such hope in New England’s monochromatic landscape during March and early April!

    October 7, 2015 at 9:00 am

  2. Anna Lambe

    Hi Mary,

    Your dogwood posts have fascinated me! The front of our cottage home in central Ontario is overgrown with dogwood (of an unknown variety).

    After many years of observing how quickly the berries disappear as soon as they turn from white to deep blue, I finally realized this year who the hungry guzzlers were. (NOT birds, as I had always assumed!)

    As I watched in fascination this year, several chipmunks climbed the 6 to 8 foot shrubs, filled their fat little cheeks with only the blue berries- (not all the berries change from white to blue at the same time)- and scurried down and away to their dens to store them, I presume, for winter! Will they dine on dried dogwood berries during the frigid cold?

    If two found themselves in close proximity gathering berries in a dogwood, a battle royal would ensue until one or the other fell or retreated. Sorry, no battle pictures-they were moving too fast!

    I enjoy your blog every day; I learn so much and am fascinated by the similarity of flora and fauna between our land, in south central Ontario, near Coboconk, and your area.

    Many thanks for the joy you give so many people with you writing and photos!

    Anna Lambe

    October 7, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    • Why am I not surprised? Chipmunks are so clever, and so resourceful! Thanks you so much for sharing, Anna.

      October 8, 2015 at 8:23 am

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