Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)
General - low, erect perennial, 10 - 20 cm tall, from a spreading rhizome; stems 5 - 15 cm tall; somewhat woody base; often forms large colonies.
Leaves - evergreen, opposite; 4 to 6 leaves in a whorl at the top of the stem, often with 1 or 2 pairs of smaller, leaf-like scales on the stem below; elliptic or egg-shaped, 2 - 6 cm long, margins tapering to a point at both ends, veins parallel.
Flowers - dense cluster of small greenish-white to purplish flowers above the leaf "whorl"; consists of 4 large (1 - 2 cm long), showy, tinged, white to purple petal-like bracts; appearing early summer.
Fruit -bright red, fleshy, berry-like; in a terminal cluster; ripening by midsummer.
Very common and widespread; occurring across boreal forests in a broad range of stand types and soil/site conditions.
The "berries" are important forage material for wildlife although they taste rather bland to most humans to eat. They can be used in sauces and puddings. This species is one of many being investigated for natural chemotherapeutic compounds with potential for application in cancer treatment. A mild tea made from the roots has been used to treat colic in infants. Bunchberry have an explosive pollination mechanism whereby a tiny antennae near the tip of a petal triggers the flower buds to bend back and the anthers to spring outward.
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