Bunchberry

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Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest

Bunchberry, BC Coastal Region
Bunchberry, Photo By Bud Logan

Bunchberry, is also known as the Dwarf dogwood. The Bunchberry grows in great abundance on the BC coast. This perennial sub shrub is a diminutive member of the dogwood family. The Bunchberry is native to a broad area extending west from extreme southern Greenland across boreal Canada and the Northern United States south down the Rocky Mountains into Colorado and New Mexico, across Alaska to Northeastern Asia.

It thrives in moist well drained soils of forests and forest edges. In some places it is the dominant ground cover of the forest floor, in other places it can carpet stumps and fallen logs. The erect flowering stems are generally 10 to 20 cm tall.

The form of the Bunchberry Flower, leaf shape and leaf venation are very similar to its bigger relative, the flowering dogwood tree. The flowering stems emerge from the creeping underground stem late in the spring. Leaves unfold into a whorl of four to six leaves and above these leaves the flower opens and blooms from May through early July.

Bunchberry, BC Coastal Region
Bunchberry, Photo By Bud Logan

The flowers of Bunchberry are somewhat deceptive. The four white petals are actually modified leaves resembling flower petals. Clustered in the center of these four white to pinkish petal like bracts are the numerous tiny white to greenish to purplish flowers of the Bunchberry.

Flowers are pollinated by various flies and bees, which are attracted by the bright white petal-like bracts. In the late summer, clusters of spherical red fruit appear on the plant, thus the name bunchberry. Although the fruits are not poisonous, they are not particularly tasty, have an odd cottony texture and a single seed. The leaves become somewhat leathery, and in the autumn the leaves can turn bright colors. Since the leaves are somewhat evergreen, in protected places they can remain throughout the winter.

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