Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Trees of Our Little Acre: Cornelian Cherry

Several years ago, I visited the historic home of Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924), Indiana author of more than 20 books, and a celebrated naturalist. In the latter part of her life, Gene and her husband built a home near Rome City, Ind., on Sylvan Lake, which they called "Cabin in the Wildflower Woods." There, she worked on her nature studies and her writing, before moving to Los Angeles about 1920, so that she could be more involved in the making of movies based on her books.

Cabin in the Wildflower Woods
Home of Gene Stratton-Porter

When I visited the cabin, I was given a tour of the gardens, which were in the process of being restored to their original plan as Gene planted them. Martha Ferguson, who was in charge of the gardens at the time, gifted me with a Cornelian cherry seedling - one that grew from the original one that Gene had planted there.

That was in 2007.  I planted the seedling then, and this spring - today! - it rewarded me with its first blooms ever.

If it's bloomed in years previous, neither of us noticed, and that's not likely since it's located just out our back door where we pass by it countless times in spring. If we didn't notice the blooms before, we surely would have noticed the bright red drupes that follow and take all summer to ripen.

The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is in the dogwood family and in my experience is easier to grow than other dogwoods. It hasn't been a particularly fast grower, but it has grown to be about 5-6 feet tall in the eight years that we've had it.

If I can get to the berries before the birds do, I'll make something with them, such as jam or a fruit sauce, as they are edible, reaching complete ripeness after they've fallen from the tree. This could be a challenge unless I net the tree.  The flavor is said to be like that of the cranberry with a tartness similar to sour cherries. They are very high in Vitamin C and have been used medicinally to treat cold and flu.

Cornelian Cherry
Cornus mas

Zone: 4a to 8b
Light:  Full sun to part shade
Height:  15-25 feet
Bloom time:  Late winter to early spring
Soil pH: Prefers slightly acidic
Other:  Fruit is edible, can be grown as shrub or tree, bark sheds on mature trees


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I think a lot of trees need seven years before they bloom. This one is worth waiting for. Beautiful.

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