Red-osier Dogwood

or “Red Willow”


Secwepemc name: Berries cpeqpeqeqen’ceni; Bush tseqwtsqweqwel’qw te q’wlsellp

The whitish, clustered berries, though tart and bitter, were often eaten by the Secwepemc, more so in the past than today. They ripen in mid-summer, through to September and October.  They could be eaten alone, but usually, they were mashed together with the sweeter tasting saskatoon berries (speqpeq, speqpeq7úw’i) and a little water or juice, to make a favourite dish Mary Thomas called “sweet and sour”.

Mary Thomas laughingly called the berries “Indian Scope,” and said they were an excellent breath freshener. Red willow is used in a variety of ways as a material  For instance, it had a number of important roles in catching and processing fish. Mary Thomas said the branches were used to make fish weirs, because they are pithy inside, making them lightweight. Leslie Jules said that, of all the willows, this one was the most flexible, and therefore the best for making the fish traps.

Red willow was an important material for constructing sweat lodges. These were often built down alongside the river, where red willow is abundant. Red willow was also sometimes used to surround food in cooking pits.

The bark was used to make poultices to relieve pain, swelling, bruising and toothache.

Very adaptable to various soil and climate conditions. It prefers moist, rich soils but will grow in most areas that have sufficient moisture.  Tolerates shade but does best in partial sun.

Red willow can be found scattered along the interpretive trail at the Mary Thomas Heritage Centre and at the Shuswap lake delta meadow area.