Who Eats Kousa Dogwood?

exotic fruit nobody eats

(A Cautionary Tale in Second Person)

Here’s what you wonder:
if Kousa (Japanese) dogwoods evolved in East Asia with wildlife there, what eats Kousa fruit here?

Because you already know that Nashville butterflies and moths can’t use Kousa leaves as caterpillar food.

And because you now suspect that the fruit piling up under neighborhood Kousa trees will keep piling up, uneaten.
The fruits looks like round, warty raspberries but with long, cherry stems.

So, you watch and learn that:
*squirrels ignore them,
*birds ignore them.

So, you ask the Internet and learn that:
*monkeys were the main disperser in the native range,
*people can also eat the fruit.

So, you take some blobs home and learn that:
*the fruit tastes kind of okay (but the peel isn’t worth it).

But, because your migraine is worse, you go to bed and forget that you’ve left on the table a single, round, perfect blob.

Three days later, you come back to the kitchen and learn that:
*mice eat Kousa dogwood fruit (but the peel isn’t worth it),
and . . .
*you have mice.

mouse-excavated fruit on kitchen table

Please to note:

Don’t plant Kousa dogwood. Yes, it is resistant to our dogwood blight, but it probably brought the blight to North America in the first place. But more importantly, Kousa, not having evolved here, does not support the foodweb here.

We do not have enough time and space for plants that are just decorative.

Instead, plant a native Dogwood species which can feed birds and mammals, and which has leaves that can host 92 different butterfly and moth caterpillar species in Nashville.
Natives include Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) and Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii), but I’ve typed a list below.

We have a choice:
to garden for Decoration or to garden for Life.


Dogwoods native to Tennessee as per Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee:
Flowering Dogwood / Cornus florida
Roughleaf Dogwood / Cornus drummondii
Swamp Dogwood / Cornus obliqua
Alternateleaf Dogwood / Cornus alternifolia
Silky Dogwood / Cornus amomum
Stiff Dogwood / Cornus foemmina
Roundleaf Dogwood / Cornus rugosa

Going Native,” from the National Wildlife Federation, in which Doug Tallamy is quoted about Kousa dogwoods vs native dogwoods.

National Wildlife Federation native plant finder. Enter your zipcode and find plants native to your area, and a list of butterfly and moth species that can use that plant for caterpillar food (and thus bird food). This is the source of my claim that native dogwood leaves feed 92 Lepidoptera species in Nashville.

Kousa fruit edibility for humans: see this post at Eat the Weeds.


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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals.

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