|...bright red berries of a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) define fall.|
These berries are all from a dogwood tree I found while hiking around the lake at Greenbo Lake State Park in Kentucky during our annual fall trip. The tree was big, and I was excited when I turned the bend and found it. Around here, dogwood trees have succumbed to Dogwood Anthracnose, a fungal disease that stunts and often kills the tree. I remember back in the 80s when reports predicted dogwood trees might all be wiped out by the turn of the century, and it was all but hopeless. Luckily, some of the trees are surviving. A few seem to have a natural resistance to the fungus, while others seem to have survived because they are growing in a perfect location—sun, good air circulation, good drainage, yet sufficient water are all important. Since this tree was so big, there's no doubt location, location, location was in play because it didn't seem to have been affected by the fungus and its fruit production was substantial...
|...autumn leaves and red berries of the flowering dogwood add a splash of color to the fall woods.|
|...red berries of Cornus florida on a healthy tree in Greenbo Lake State Park in Kentucky.|
|In the 80s we were warned flowering dogwoods could someday disappear from our forests, so it's always wonderful to stumble across a large, healthy fruiting tree in the woods!|
The disease was first identified in 1978 and through the 80s its spread was swift and thorough through the east, south and parts of the midwest, as well as parts of the Pacific northwest, but some trees exhibited a natural resistance to the fungus. In 1991 79% of the flowering dogwood trees in Catoctin Mountain park in Maryland were dead from the fungus, but a few escaped infection and were found to be resistant to the disease. Those trees became part of a study by the University of Tennessee Dogwood Research Team. The research team was able to produce an anthracnose-resistant tree called "Appalachian Spring" from clones of the Catoctin trees. In 2001 they planted many of the disease-resistant clones in the forest to help replace those lost to the disease (for more on this story, click here and here). The University of Tennessee Dogwood Research Team, chaired by Dr. Mark Windham, a professor at the University of Tennessee, is still working to improve and protect dogwoods from all diseases (click here for a recent article on what they are doing now).
|These bright red berries stand out like fruit flags to migrating birds. The berries are nutritious and full of fat and can help fuel their long flights south.|