Along Highway 299 near Hat Creek Park (Shasta County CA) bright red shrubs provide color to an otherwise dull, grey and brown winter landscape. Often driving by and speculating as to the plant’s identity, Leonard and I finally stopped and climbed down into the swampy field where these plants grew.
As suspected, red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) was adding cheerful color to the scenery. This multi-stemmed, freely-spreading shrub or small tree grows to a height of 5 to 15 feet and forms dense thickets. In addition to the red twigs, dry leaves with their distinctive oval shape, pointed tips and prominent parallel veins as well as the remnants of the flower/fruit clusters helped in identification.
Red osier dogwood is moisture-loving and typically grows in swampy areas or stream side forests but can also be found in open thickets or disturbed areas. It is an important winter browse for deer, elk and moose.
Another scientific name for C. stolonifera is Cornus sericea.