Earlier this year I posted pictures of red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) flowers, leaves and plants. This “plant for all seasons” is beautiful throughout the year, since red osier dogwood stems are red, even in the winter when all of the surrounding trees and shrubs are dull brown and gray against the winter snow.
The leaves of this dogwood species have filmy white threads running through the leaf veins. The threads are not latex or sap but are actually fibers (pith) that run through the stem and leaf veins. This pith is elastic and gives the stem and leaves rigidity and flexibility. As in the photograph, the pith is most easily seen when a leaf is split crosswise and gently pulled apart.
The fruits of red osier dogwood are white drupes, occasionally tinged a bluish color. Drupes are fleshy or pulpy one-seeded fruits in which the seed has a stony covering (cherries are a common drupe). Red osier stones are somewhat flattened. The red osier dogwood fruits are edible but not palatable, being quite bitter.
The leaves of red osier dogwood, also called C. sericea, turn red in the fall. I thought the one bright red leaf amid the green-yellow dogwood leaves was pretty.
I was curious about the common name “osier”. It comes from the French and Middle English and means willow, wicker or flexible stem/branch. The name probably refers to the long, flexible red osier shoots, which were used in basketry.
These red-osier dogwood pictures were taken along the shores of Donner Lake where some members of the ill-fated Donner Party spent the winter of 1846 -1847.