Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fruits of Fall- Part I

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Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is well known for its showy white flowers in the spring, but it has a dramatic second act in mid-October every year.  The shiny-green leaves turn a dark crimson, easily discernible from a distance.  On closer inspection, clusters of bright red fruit are hiding among the leaves.  The fruit is called a drupe, meaning a seed covered by fleshy pulp.*

The fruit is a preferred food for turkey.  We once looked out our kitchen window at Bull Creek and watched a turkey jumping up and down with its neck extended to grab dogwood berries that were just out of its reach.  Deer and 28 species of birds enjoy these fruits, including quail once the fruit drop to the ground.

Native Americans treated “malaria” with the bark of its roots and European settlers followed their example.  It was even used later as a quinine substitute.  A scarlet dye from its roots was used by Native Americans.  The “dog” in its name may have come from “dag” which means skewer, a purpose its hard splinter-free wood twigs were used for in Europe with other "dagwood" species.  
"Dense and fine-grained, dogwood lumber was highly prized for making loom shuttles, tool handles and other small items that required a very hard and strong wood. Though tough for woodworking, some artisans favor dogwood for small projects such as walking canes, longbows, mountain dulcimers and fine inlays. It was an excellent substitute for persimmon in golf clubheads (“woods”)."  Wikipedia
Flowering dogwood is our state tree.  Fall is a great time to get out into the woods to see it.
Bob Ranney has even sent this evidence that hiking in the woods is good for your health.

* Shrubs and Woody Vines of Missouri, Kurz, p. 88

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