Appearance''Cornus canadensis'' is a slow-growing herbaceous subshrub growing 10–20 cm tall, generally forming a carpet-like mat. The above-ground shoots rise from slender creeping rhizomes that are placed 2.5–7.5 cm deep in the soil, and form clonal colonies under trees. The vertically produced above-ground stems are slender and unbranched. The leaves are oppositely arranged on the stem, but are clustered with six leaves that often seem to be in a whorl because the internodes are compressed. The leafy green leaves are produced near the terminal node and consist of two types: 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves. The smaller leaves develop from the axillary buds of the larger leaves. The shiny dark green leaves have 2 to 3 mm long petioles and leaf blades that are obovate. The blades have entire margins and are 3.5 to 4.8 cm long and 1.5 to 2.5 cm wide, with 2 or 3 veins and cuneate shaped bases and abruptly acuminate apexes. In the fall, the leaves have red tinted veins and turn completely red.
Habitat''Cornus canadensis'' is a mesophytic species that needs cool, moist soils. It inhabits montane and boreal coniferous forests, where it is found growing along the margins of moist woods, on old tree stumps, in mossy areas, and amongst other open and moist habitats.Birds are the main dispersal agents of the seeds, consuming the fruit during their fall migration. In Alaska, bunchberry is an important forage plant for mule deer, black-tailed deer and moose, which consume it throughout the growing season.
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