Red Osier Dogwood
(Page background: C. Stolonifera in bloom.)
Shrubs with opposite leaves, 3-10 ft high. Leaves smooth or sparsely hairy underneath.
Red Osier Dogwood is the "Real Cansasa" of the old Lakota traditions. The outer bark is carefully removed and inner bark is scraped off, dried and smoked in the Canupa (Sacred Pipe.) Most North American members of the species Cornus have been used in the same ways as C. Stolonifera.
Red Willow bark is also called Cansasa and is used in the same way. I have smoked both - singly and mixed together. By themselves, they make a mild and pleasant smelling smoke that is not addictive like tobacco, nor does it cause any mood alteration or other psychogenic activity. Many people mix them with their tobacco for flavoring.
The USDA lists C. stolonifera's ethnobotanical uses as follows: "Emetic, Fumitory, Respiratory, Tea".
The inner bark has been used for red, black and yellow dyes and the young twigs and stems are used in basketwork and other crafts. The wood is said to be a good material for carving.
C. asperifolia, (Rough Dogwood) was a favorite wood for arrow shafts.