Years ago, I noticed this little shrub in the neighbour’s patch. He was a farmer who ran a mixed farm. His name was Stanley Kerfoot. Mr. Kerfoot walked to the Cornus amomum and pulled off a few dark dried fruits. He put them into my hand, “Now, tell me if you get the taste of dates from these little critters?” The farmer in question loved his honey-comb with a dash of brown sugar. He could taste sweetness like a cougar loves blood.
This cornus is a member of the Dogwood family and is North American child beloved by the aboriginal peoples of this continent. It was an important medicine in the management of disease. In the past there were other names for this plant, one is silky dogwood and the other is Kinnikinnik.
There is a huge shrub of Cornus amomum growing to the South of my vegetable garden and another at the North end. This plant was carefully grown for seed collected in the wild and planted with a definite purpose. The white flowers attract a huge range of pollinators into the garden. Then the plants set seed, the dark sundried seeds feed the songbirds in passage. And they feed me too, when I am hungry with hoe in hand.
I have a great interest in aboriginal medicines. And this little baby is no exception. Once upon a time Cornus amomum was shipped from one corner of the continent to the other. It was dried and smoked in a pipe. The smoke was a relaxant. It also promoted ocular circulation in the eye and decreased retinal ischemia, which is a lack of oxygen getting to the works of the eye. Somehow, the cornus seems to also have an effect on the thyroid as it was used to treat goitre. So a handful of cornus berries is an excellent seasonal health food.
I have shrubs, trees and perennial plants spread all over the garden. Sometime you come across them and they look very ordinary. Other times you see them when they are in full bloom and you realize the grandeur of their chaste beauty. Hidden underneath the foliage there is an ancient history lurking like a crown jewel.
All photos courtesy of Maryalice Mullally