Those who have traveled up to the head Lake Chelan in June may have spotted the startling large (4-5″ across), white blooms of Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) among the lakeshore trees, or found the bright red-orange fruit clusters in the fall. This small tree is an uncommon, but not rare, sight in the forests west of the Cascades from southern British Columbia down through California. East of the Cascades, however, there exist but two isolated populations of this special tree that I know of: one at the upper end of Lake Chelan (including Lucerne and Stehekin) and another on a fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho. A friend showed me group of two or three trees in the Lake Wenatchee area, perhaps not enough to constitute a “population”. Still, it makes me wonder how they came to be there (a fast-flying bird? a constipated bear?) and if there are others of this species in between that small grouping and Lake Chelan, some 25 miles to the north.
Last fall I sowed Pacific dogwood seeds from both the Stehekin and Lucerne areas and the first seedlings emerged in early April. I’m excited to have plants from our side of the Cascades, with hope that they will be well adapted to our cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. We’ll see; they are somewhat tricky to grow. Previous experience has taught me that they are susceptible to root rot in the nursery, and they are notorious for transplanting poorly and falling prey to fungal diseases. Check with me in six months, if not two years!