The flowers of the bunchberry plant (Cornus canadensis) look remarkably similar to dogwood blooms for a very good reason. Bunchberries are also known as dwarf dogwood and belong to the same family.
These hardy wildflowers grow in shady or semi-shaded areas, usually under deciduous trees. They prefer slightly moist, acidic soil. They bloom in late spring, typically around the first of June in central Maine.
While these flowers look like simple four-petaled flowers, looks can be deceiving. The white petals aren't actually petals at all. They are bracts. Bracts are modified leaves that rest just below the flower on a plant. While bracts are typically green and look like a leaf (although their shape is usually different from the other leaves on the plant), Some plants produce bracts that look more like petals to attract insect pollinators.
The true flowers of the bunchberry plant are in the center of the bracts. There are 20 to 50 flowers ranging from green to white in the center of the four white bracts.
When pollinated, the tiny center flowers each produce a berry forming a cluster of berries lending it the name bunchberry. The berries ripen to a bright orange-red by August and can be found well into the fall, if birds do not eat them.