Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dogberries and Winter

When September rolls into October in Newfoundland and leaves begin to fall some colours jump out. Few are as dramatic as dogberries. The brilliant red berries are left hanging in bunches through the fall/winter and provide continued snacking for the birds that hang around.  It seems they are reserved for those lean winter days and tend not to disappear in fall.

Dogberry an alternate name for these small decidous trees or shrubs. They are actually called Showy Mountain Ash and American Mountain Ash; both are native to Newfoundland.  They look so similar that people tend to call both Dogberry, in Newfoundland and beyond.  There is much variability about whether the berries are edible. Some say no.  They are, in fact, quite useful for jams and jellies, even for dogberry wine. Eating them raw is not recommended; they are very acidic and not enjoyable to eat straight from the tree.

How about as a predicter for a bad winter?  When dogberries ripen people tend to consider the severity of winter based on the amount of fruit. More fruit = a rough, cold winter because more fruit is made available for birds. This has been the subject of much consideration. Who knows?  My non-scientific monitoring over the past 20 years has shown no correlation.  :)

Let's hope for a good one!

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