Identification & Description:
Bunchberry is an attractive evergreen groundcover, spreading via rhizomatous growth. Bunchberry grows just 3 inches tall and slowly spreads. Found in nature in damp areas at the edges of woods in far northern areas such as Maine and the great north woods. Charming, 4 pointed white fowers apppear in late spring to summer, followed by scarlet berries that grouse and wildlife feed on. Exotic, 2 inch whorled leaves form dense patches, with red and purple color all winter. Bunchberry is a treat, but is not for hot southern areas. EASTERN is one of the few nurseries that tells you that. A charming challenge elsewhere.
The stems are leafless below except for a pair of small leafy bracts, with 4-7 leaves in a terminal whorl. The leaves are elliptic, ovate-, or rhombic-elliptic in shape, and are sessile. They are from 2-8 cm long with entire margins and prominent pinnate venation with the veins curved towards the distal end, so that the veins become parallel to the leaf edge.
The flower heads are at the apex of the stem, consisting of a cluster of tiny flowers subtended by 4 white or pink bracts. The brats are narrowly to broadly ovate, and from 1-2 cm long. Individual flowers are 1-1.5 mm long. The attractive fruits are a bright coral red, from 6-8 mm long. Bunchberry is an attractive ornamental groundcover, both for its foliage, flowers, and fruit.
Family: Dogwood (Cornaceae)
Habitat: cool woods, mountain slopes
Height: 3-8 inches
Flower size: flower head is 1-1/2 inches across
Flower color: a cluster of tiny, yellow-green flowers surrounded by showy white bracts
Flowering time: May to July
Perennial growing to 0.25m by 1m at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. We rate it 4 out of 5 for usefulness.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.
Fruit – raw or cooked. Pleasant but without much flavour. The fruits are rather dry a bit gummy and rather mealy but they have a pleasant slightly sweet flavour, though they are not the type of fruit I would like to eat raw in quantity. They can be added to breakfast cereals or used for making jams, pies, puddings etc. An excellent ingredient for steamed plum puddings. High in pectin, so it can be used with pectin-low fruits when making jam. Pectin is said to protect the body against radiation. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is borne in small clusters on top of the plants.
Ground cover; Pectin.
The fruit is rich in pectin.
A good dense ground cover plant, growing well in light woodland. It takes a little while to settle down and needs weeding for the first few years but becomes rampant when established and can then spread 60 – 90cm per year.
Bunchberry is found from Alaska south to California, and east to Greenland, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico. In the Columbia River Gorge, it is found above 1300′ in the western gorge, from Crown Point to approximately Dog Mt.
Succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility. Easily grown in a peaty soil in shade or partial shade. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Grows best in sandy soils. Prefers a damp soil. Not suitable for alkaline soils.
A very ornamental plant, it grows well with heathers.