Unknown berry bearing tree in Southern Nova Scotia

(Question)

Hi, I’ve had this bush growing at the borders of my lawn for 20+ years. It has beautiful white blossoms in the Spring and dark blue berries which change to black when fully ripe. They are ripening now. I live in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia and I believe our hardiness zone is a 6b. I am sending the photo of the tree with my beagle in the shot for size comparison. I have some closeup shots of the leaves and berries but could only seem to attach one photo. Email me and I will send the rest. I am wondering if these berries are edible? It seems a shame to waste them if they are. Thank you.

 

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners and thank you for forwarding more photos.

From the pictures I believe you have Cornus alternifolia, Pagoda dogwood.

This is a small tree that is a native understory tree in eastern Canada. This means it often grows on the edge of forests where much of the light is blocked by larger trees. The pagoda dogwood has a distinctive shape with each year’s growth creating a tier giving it the pagoda look. Most dogwoods have opposite leaves; when you look at a branch the leaves are arranged in pairs going down the branch. The pagoda dogwood has the leaves arranged alternately on the branch hence the name alternifolia.

The tree has the flowers you noted then the berries follow. There is conflicting advice on the edibility of the fruit but all sites describe it as bitter and distasteful. These berries are not going to waste, however. Migrating birds in the fall depend on the dogwoods as an important food source.

I have included a link below with more information on the pagoda dogwood.

https://nativeplants.evergreen.ca/search/view-plant.php?ID=00230