Late Winter Color: Red Osier Dogwood

While walking in Eliza Howell Park during the many gray days and the occasional sunny days of February and early March, I like to stop by a Red Osier Dogwood. This red-stemmed shrub provides brighter color when almost all other park plants are gray or brown.


Red osier is a native flowering deciduous shrub that grows to about 6 – 10 feet in height. The young branches and twigs are reddish during the dormant season, getting brighter as the winter progresses. Older branches do not show the same red.

It is sometimes grown in gardens as an ornamental and gardeners who want only red winter branches prune it down close to the ground about every three years.


There are only a few red osier dogwoods in Eliza Howell. The one pictured immediately above is found on the little island with birch and spruce trees where the road entering from Fenkell starts the loop.

Though it is best known for its wintertime branches and twigs, it is an attractive shrub at all times of the year. The fruit is white, as can be seen in this picture from late June (the same plant as above).


Blackberry stems (canes) are also reddish at this time of the year, but, with their evident prickles (thorns), they are not easily confused with red osier dogwood.


Blackberry thorns snag and hold on. The red osier draws me close by its simple attractiveness…


…and is a March highlight every year.


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