Pitcher Plant Family
Water Lily Family
Water Plantian Family
Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families
( Originally Published 1908 )
The Dogwood family is for the most part composed of shrub-like or tree-like species, there being generally distributed in the United States but one herbaceous form. The Flowering Dogwood, a tree with gigantic blossoms and very striking appearance, is a typical representative of this family, the most important characteristic of which, perhaps, is the presence of four large petal-like bracts at the base of the cluster of small flowers. The fruit in all of the Dogwoods is a large or small drupe which has a two-celled stone or pit.
BUNCHBERRY. Of all the carpets of green and white with which the June woods are made beautiful none is more attractive than that of the Dwarf Cornel or Bunchberry. From the latter part of May until the end of June these flowers give a brilliant effect in damp, cool woods through-out a wide geographical range. The single rather strong but slender stem arises from the creeping rootstock to a height of from four to eight inches, before sending out any leaves. Then it sends out six of these in a whorl that makes a horizontal platform surrounding the stem, from the middle of which rises the flower-stalk bearing the good-sized conspicuous blossom, which, at first glance, appears to be composed of four large white petals. A more careful scrutiny, however, shows that there are complete though tiny flowers above these supposed petals and that what looks like a single blossom really consists of a good many flowers crowded together in one head. The white petaloid parts, which the botanists call bracts, serve to render the flower-head conspicuous and help to attract short-tongued insects of many kinds to the flowers, their reward being found in the nectar which is secreted around the base of the style. The flowering heads have a delicate odor.
After the white bracts have fallen off each lower-head develops a group of small berries which structurally are much like little plums and so are called drupes, green at first but later turning to a brilliant red. To these the plant owes its common name of Bunchberry. It seems hard to believe that this delightful little blossom belongs in the same genus as the gigantic Flowering Dog-wood, whose great blossoms stand out so conspicuously in the forest. Yet if you compare the flowers of the two you cannot fail to notice how much they resemble each other.