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What is a Redtwig Dogwood?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

Redtwig dogwood, also called "red twig dogwood," is a plant specie which belongs to the family Cornaceae. It is also referred to as red osier dogwood, western dogwood and redstem dogwood. This redtwig shrub is a perennial native to North America, specifically the region of Alaska. In the winter season, the stems become red. During spring, its small flowers blossom in abundance, and the leaves will later change to a bright crimson color in the fall.

The redtwig dogwood, scientifically known as Cornus sericea, Swida serecea or Cornus stolonifera, is a popular ornamental shrub which is usually planted for the bright red twigs that are displayed during winter, the period of its dormancy. Capable of forming dense thickets, the redtwig shrub usually grows from 5 to 13 feet (about 1.5 to 4 m) in length and roughly 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 m) in width. It spreads readily through underground stolons, which are stems that grow just beneath the ground’s surface and produce clones of the original plant. The twigs and branches are most often dark red in color, but this is not always true for wild plants found in shaded areas.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Redtwig dogwood shrubs bear small flowers that are cream to white in color. In the later part of May to early July, these little blooms appear in clusters, which are flat on top and measure about 2 inches (5 cm) across. From August to September the dull white fruits mature, with the diameter of each fruit generally being between 0.2 to 0.3 inches (about 6 to 8 mm). Usually, an individual redtwig dogwood plant starts to bear fruit when it reaches the age of three to four years. The leaves are approximately 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long, dark green on their topside and pale green on their underside, though both sides turn red during the fall season.

The plant's berries were eaten by some Indian tribes native to North America, known as the Plateau Indians, to stop profuse bleeding and serve as a remedy for the common cold. The origin of the name dogwood has no relation to dogs, but only theories exist on the true origins. One theory is that dogwood was once called dagwood, dag being an old word meaning dagger or arrow. The wood is incredibly hard, making the branches useful as carved weapons. In addition, the name of this plant’s genus, Cornus, was derived from its Latin meaning, horn.

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