March 11, 2022

Tree Spotlight: Red-Osier Dogwood

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A common question that surely goes around tree enthusiasts is how can you identify a dogwood? The answer is of course by its bark. The red-osier dogwood is one of the shrubby plants volunteers, with the help of TreeUtah and Wasatch Mountain State Park staff, identified on the hike just a few weeks ago. The American native red-osier dogwood by all appearances bears white berries and has multiple stems that are a bright and flashy red in its early years. The red stems become less bright as it ages, though. Nevertheless, it is hard to miss this aesthetically pleasing shrub when eyeing a landscape. 

Every kind of tree or shrubby plant is unique in their own way, both in their appearance and their benefits to wildlife or people. Besides being deciduous, the red-osier dogwood is a great option for when needing to help areas prone to erosion like wetlands and even your own backyard that contains wetter soil. The red-osier dogwood has strong fibrous roots holding it in place which helps the surrounding soil not blow or wash away into surrounding waters or in the air.

The red-osier dogwood also has various versatile uses. Inside the bark of the tree contains fibrous wood components that can be used as a tobacco substitute by indigenous populations. Additionally, it’s bright and slender branches are used to weave baskets which are similar to what wicker baskets look like. Though these uses serve their purpose, we need to look at the red-osier dogwood not for its benefits it brings humans, but through the larger context of the wildlife and environment as a whole. 

Various wildlife like moose, elk, and birds use its stems and spring blooming flowers as a resource for shelter or sustenance. Birds in the United States like American robins, pheasants, and ruffed grouse are some that have benefited from the red-osier. Though, the ruffed grouse is a nonmigratory bird that can be found in the more northern region of Utah and is one of ninety-five birds who use this shrubby plant as a food source. Based on a vulnerability map by the Audubon Society, ruffed grouse could become especially vulnerable during the winter months from temperature increases due to climate change. With the red-osier dogwood not drought tolerant and climate change possibly impacting soil moisture, what kind of changes would this bring to the ruffed grouse using the red-osier dogwood as a resource? 

The red-osier dogwood is quite unique and an important resource for some wildlife so the question being asked is important in addressing. We have a list of what trees similar to the red-osier dogwood that you can plant, so give it a look here.