I observed this plant today, September 18th, 2023, at approximately 1:20 in the afternoon while on a walk in the Back Loop area. It has been extremely windy in the Juneau region so I also observed various natural debris from the surrounding forest around the foliage such as fallen bark and lots of pine needles and cones. I did see that its state of being was alive but the leaves are beginning to show signs of normal annual decay and will likely die following the first frost/snow. After doing some research to identify it I found the plant is definitely a Bunchberry, however, I came up with two possible conclusions on the specific species–the Cornus unalaschkensis or the Cornus canadensis. They look incredibly similar to one another in leaf color, shape, and design, along with cream-colored petals, and can only be distinguished by the color difference at the center of their flowers since they both grow native to the region as well; the Cornus unalaschkensis has a purple center of the blossom while the Cornus canadensis has an all-white blossom. I cannot properly identify it since the Bunchberry’s bloom season, which runs from July to mid-August, has ended. That being said, here is the general information I was able to find on the plant; it is also known as Alaska Bunchberry, Creeping Dogwood, and Western Cordilleran Bunchberry. Also, it is in the Anthophyta phylum, the class of Dicotyledoneae, the order of Corales, and the family of Cornaceae. Another fun fact is that the plant grows small non-poisonous red berries in the warmer months and the Indigenous peoples of Bella Coola, British Columbia, have historically eaten the fruit dried in the winter or mashed and served with oolichan (fish) grease as treat in the summer.

Stanley, Gerald B. “Cornus Unalaschkensis.” Washington Native Plant Society, 2018, distinguishing%20 characteristics%20are%20that,(see%20annotated%20second%20photo)’.
Glase, Terry. “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin, 1 Feb. 2023,
Beckman, J., and L. Morse. “Cornus Unalaschkensis: Western Dwarf Dogwood.” NatureServe Explorer 2.0, 1 Sept. 2023,

Posted on September 19, 2023 06:14 AM by leximountcastle leximountcastle


I'd never heard of a Bunchberry before viewing your observation. I find it interesting that the two variations are so similar to each other, and the only way to tell them apart is to look at the blossom in the center. I also liked how you included all the different names the Bunchberry goes by; it makes it more interesting to read about. It also grows non-poisonous berries, that's fascinating. I would have expected the berries to be poisonous because all the berries around where I live are poisonous. I wouldn't have anticipated the Bunchberry to be so versatile, having importance in both the wintertime and the summer; I thought the Bunchberry would be less valuable. Anyway, thank you for your observation.

Posted by hannahbanana05 5 days ago

I totally think you’re right on your assessment! It’s so hard to determine plants sans berries. I’ve seen similar berries throughout the countryside in England and they provide a stunning ground cover and come back year after year. I recall knowing what they were because the fruits are literally …a bunch of berries all in one! What a great find, I hope you make it back for fruit next season. The recipe you found for the fruit/fish mash sounds GROSS!! The Native Alaskan’s equivalent of pineapple on pizza with the sweet and savory flex. I guess you either love it or hate it!

Posted by samsavage 3 days ago

Hi Lexi;
Thank you for choosing Bunchberries. I almost chose those for this week's observations because their little bright red berries always indicate autumn's arrival. They are like the holly berry for Christmas, but it is a sign of fall for me. The weather will change, and this is the last chance of a harvest from the land. I eat them myself when I am wandering around the forests and muskegs. They are a little like a miniature apple but not as crisp. An elder friend of my dad's told me once that the Natives would mix these with the sweeter berries and smoke them with alder wood. Then, as you said in your observation, they would eat these dried berries in the winter with either seal or eulachon oil.
Thank you for your information. I gleaned more about these little sweethearts from it.

Posted by gayleenjacobs 1 day ago

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