Bunchberry, Chamaepericlymenum canadense
or Cornus canadensis

Family: Cornaceae, the Dogwood Family

Description: Native, 5-30cm tall herbaceous perennial. Leaves in clusters of 4 or 6 with curving, parallel veins, fruit is a cluster of red drupes, flowers subtended by 4 white, petal-like bracts.

Abundance: Common

Habitat: Coniferous woodlands, mountaintops, bogs

Plant Parts Used: Drupes

Food: Edible drupes

Bunchberry’s bright red fruits, which are not technically berries but drupes, often scare people away from the idea of eating this common wild food. While the drupes are not particularly flavorful, they can bulk up a pie or act as a survival food when other options are not available. Ray uses bunchberry as food more often than when emergencies insist upon it. However, Terry-Anya said the flesh sticks to the large pit in the middle, making it a lot of work to prepare, though she nibbles on the fruits raw when she sees them. The Abnaki, Algonquin, Chippewa, Cree, Eskimo, Haisla, Hanaksiala, Nuu-chah-nulth, Potawatomi, and Salish among others, have eaten bunchberry in a variety of meals, both raw and cooked.

Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.

References:

  • Hayes, Terry-Anya. Personal interview. 27 Oct. 2010.
  • Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
  • Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
  • Moerman, Daniel. “Native American Ethnobotany: A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants.” UM-Dearborn College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters. Web. 14 Dec. 2010. <http://herb.umd.umich.edu/&gt;.
  • Reitze, Raymond and Nancy. Personal interview. 8, 15 Oct. 2010.
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