Dogwood

Cornus nuttali-aka Pacific dogwood became the floral emblem for BC in 1956 but apparently the flowering tree was associated with this province long before that, as dogwood lapel pins were sold to raise money for supplies like wool blankets for soldiers during world war two. (S is for Spirit Bear: A British Columbia Alphabet By G. Gregory Roberts)

I’ve long enjoyed the leathery looking white blossoms that appear in spring, probably because there are very few other wild trees that have petalled blossoms here in British Columbia. Also, the stands of dogwoods are scarce in the upper valley, whereas, they seem to be abundant around One Mile Lake and out by Nairn Falls, areas that seemed far away when I was a kid.

You might ask what any of this has to do with wellness, as I have been wondering myself. And I would have to tell you that I went into the woods one day, searching for solace as I often do, contemplating loss and healing. I found myself looking down more than was necessary to keep my footing and I sensed my spirits spiralling down as well. But I had come for help and help arrived.

Scattered about the trail, there were hundreds of bright red popcorn sized kernels which I could not identify. My downcast gaze had discovered a mystery and my first reaction was to gather a handful to take home to identify while my next thought was to look up, to see where they came from. As I l gazed, a squirrel leapt from one branch to another and I felt I knew how the seeds had been scattered. Now my eyes lingered on the leaves and the colours they were turning on the silhouette of branches against the grey skies. The squirrel chattered away at me while I tried to figure out which tree was the source of these little red seeds. After a time, I continued my run and my spirit already felt lighter.

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At home, I searched plant books and Google with little success, so I set out again to identify the tree.

At the foot of a dogwood (I kinda gave that away, no?) I discovered a scattering of red again, yet there was nothing on the tree that could account for the source. Further up, the cedar trees loomed but I doubted they were the origin. By this time, my mind had a puzzle to solve-one that I might find answers for.

Today I discovered the solution as I walked out to Nairn Falls, where the trail cuts across a hillside and offers a chance to be eye-level with the canopy of lower growing trees. On a lone branch there was one tiny spot of red and the base on which other seeds had grown in what I now realize was the fruit of the tree.

These fruit are somewhat edible but bitter for humans; birds and squirrels love them, which accounts for them being scattered all about. I picked one to compare it to the ones I had at home.

Sometimes we need to look up; sometimes we need to look down. Searching for answers will lead to more questions and some of them will be resolved satisfactorily and some will not. If we’re lucky, we’ll learn something along the way.

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