Every winter, after the leaves have fallen off my dogwood tree, little red berries grow at the tip of the branches. What are those? A similar red berry also grows on my rose bushes. Is that the same thing?
— Susan L., Medford
Red berries are to a dogwood what apples are to an apple tree and oranges are to an orange tree — its fruit.
And just like those trees, the dogwood's showy white, yellow and pink flowers are the prelude of the fruit to come. (Think back to grade school when you learned that flowers are the reproductive structures of the plant and produce seeds, which can be dry or protected by a fleshy, sometimes edible, tissue.)
"Your dogwood is doing exactly what dogwoods are supposed to do," said Master Gardener Bob Reynolds. "The blossoms produce the seeds, and this is the seed."
While we don't suggest you eat them with your granola and yogurt in the morning, the dogwood drupes are not toxic, but side effects, such as rashes, have been reported.
"One species, Cornelian cherry, is eaten regularly, although I think it's incredibly tart," Reynolds said.
Birds don't seem to mind the tartness and feast on the fruit through the fall and into the winter.
The waxy, hard berries on your rose bush are called "rose hips" and also are the result of nature's flower-to-fruit process. If you can beat the birds to these berries, they can be used in teas, jellies, soups, pies, potpourri and as a source of vitamin C.
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