The late June sun burns hot in the sky as the big blue truck rolls to a stop on Muddelty Creek. The little highland delta has been a bountiful place to find photo ops. Last year I spotted a plant that I had a bit of a challenge to identify. The leaves were opposite of each other and occurring in matched pairs. They had parllel veins and were ovoid. The bark had little blocks all along the more mature parts of the tree and the twigs were reddish. Everything about the tree said Dogwood but the flowers. It was not only the wrong time of year for Dogwood but they were also the wrong size and shape. The tiny blooms were born in umbels and looked more like an Elderberry than a Dogwood.
I have kept an eye on the the small bush growing in mud on the edge of the swamp. It was impossible to get a look at the leaf scar without sinking to my waist in the muck. So the key would be to watch the growth to see what it becomes.
I eventually resorted to the Google Lens app to point me in the right direction. I have guide books on top of guide books that I’m certain would have eventually yielded the correct answer but the app saves me hours of turning pages. As it turns out, this is a Dogwood after all. It is a Silky Dogwood. A tree that I was probably told about earlier in many forestry class but otherwise was unknown to me. What was more amazing was that it’s growing in such wet conditions and thriving.
Image Titled “Silky Dogwood 61620b” with the marsh in the background.
The tree actually goes by several common names. Red Willow ( though not a member of the willow family) and Squawbush are a couple of the more interesting. They also call the tree “Kinnikinnik” which as I understand it is an Algonquin word that means “Things that are mixed together”. In fact the natives called several plants by this name that were used for tobacco. Native Americans didn’t often smoke pure tobacco as people do today. It was more of an herbal mix that wasn’t really inhaled into the lungs as much as it was held in the mouth and let out while speaking. The story goes that the smoke carried your words to the gods and if you lied the gorget around your neck would choke you. Therefore the peace pipe was employed as a lie detector. I have no knowledge if Silky Dogwood was actually part of the mix but given that the name was given to the bush it’s a possibility.
Image Titled “Silky Dogwood 61620c” showing the new shoots growing around a mature bush.
I didn’t really see any mature Silky Dogwood that was straight but as you can see in the photo on the right the suckers tend to be very straight. I have a feeling that the natives may have used them to make arrows as was done with other Dogwood species.
Image Titled “Silky Dogwood 63020a”.
So excited by my new discovery I went to Wikipedia and began to read. I was surprised to find that unlike other Dogwood species the berries of silky Dogwood are blue and not red. The entry says that Silky Dogwood is often used as an ornamental shrub but that the downside is that the blue berries are so popular with the wildlife that they often destroy the plant to get to them. A preliminary search shows that the berries are maybe good for humans too so there may be a Forage Friday post concerning Silky Dogwood in the Fall.
For now I think I might add to my list of shrubs and trees for landscape on my property. If nothing else it’s a beautiful tree and will help attract more birds to enjoy at my window.
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