Pacific Dogwood – Cornales Cornaceae Cornus nuttallii

Identification & Description:
A decidious tree growing to 10m by 7m . It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. We rate it 2 out of 5 for usefulness.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

The Pacific dogwood (Cornus nauttallii) was adopted in 1956 as British Columbia’s floral emblem. The Pacific dogwood is a tree that grows six to eight meters high and flowers in April and May. In the autumn it is conspicuous for its cluster of bright red berries and brilliant foliage.

In 1956, a law was passed that prohibited any part of the tree from being dug up or cut down. The species name nuttallii was given in honour of the botanist Thomas Nuttall (1798-1859), a British-born botanist and ornithologist. Since the hard wood of the tree was historically used by the First Nations people for wooden handles, hooks, and skewers called ‘dags’, its name naturally evolved into dogwood. Each flower has four to six white ‘petals’ with a notch at the top of each formed from the notch on the purplish bud before the flower forms. The center of each large flower is actually a cluster of 20-30 tiny green flowerets

Unique Features:
• The Pacific Dogwood is prevented by law from being dug up or cut down
• It is the floral emblem of British Columbia
• Fruit attracts the birds, the fruit and foliage are a magnet for bears and beavers while the twigs are food for deer

Edible Uses
The fruit is possibly edible. The fruit is about 10mm in diameter and has a thin, mealy flesh.

Other Uses
• Modern – piano keys, ornamental in gardens, emblem of BC
• Traditional – wood: bows, arrows, knitting needles; bark: tanning agent, dyes; branches: slingshots

Basketry; Dye; Tannin; Wood.
An intense brown dye is obtained by boiling the bark.

Some aboriginal people used the wood, which is fine-grained, hard and heavy, for bows and arrows. More recently, the Cowichan people on Vancouver Island made knitting needles from it.

The Straits Salish made a tanning agent from the bark. The Thompson people made dyes – deep brown from the bark, black when mixed with grand fir, and red from the roots.

The wood has been used for piano keys. Pacific dogwood varieties are attractive ornamentals in coastal gardens.

The bark is rich in tannin and has been used as a preservative.

The long slender branches have been used in making baby baskets.

Wood – exceedingly hard, heavy, strong, close grained. It is used for tool handles, cabinet making etc.

Cultivation details
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility, ranging from acid to shallow chalk. Another report says that it does not thrive in poor chalky soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade.

Plants are hardy to about -15°c, but they require long hot humid summers in order to promote good growth.

A very ornamental tree, but it is usually short-lived in Britain and does not do well in the north of this country. There is some evidence to suggest that trees grow better on poor soils and can be killed by too much kindness. A very good tree has been seen on a poor gravel soil.

Closely related to C. florida.

This species is the floral emblem of British Columbia. A number of named varieties have been developed for their ornamental value.

Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.