Most of us are familiar with the old adage: “If there’s lots of dogberries, we’re going to be in for a long, hard winter.”
If dogberries being plentiful is a predictor of lots of snow and cold weather ahead, we’d all better “batten down the hatches.”
This year there are literally thousands of the bright orange-red berries adorning the trees along the roadside all around the Burin Peninsula, especially in the Grand Beach area.
The reason behind dogberries being a winter weather forecaster in Newfoundland is that a long, cold winter with lots of snow would result in robins and other birds needing extra nourishment to get them through; thus, Mother Nature takes care of that by supplying more berries.
The dogberry trees put on quite a show at this time of year with their yellowing and falling leaves providing the perfect backdrop for the brilliantly coloured berries.
In this province we refer to these small, deciduous trees or shrubs as dogwood or dogberry trees, while elsewhere in North America they are correctly called Mountain Ash.
We have two native species of the tree on the island: American Mountain Ash and Showy Mountain Ash.
berries on one of the species are a much darker red than on the other. In Grand Bank many people refer to the darker berries as “dogberries” and to the lighter-brighter berries as “catberries.”
Both are dogberries.
Often in the past people would use the berries to make wine or jelly. berries also provided many of us in our younger years with a favourite sport when dark nights arrived early in the fall to raid the neighbours’ trees to steal “a feed of dogberries.”
Believe me, they didn’t taste very good.
The last time this area enjoyed such a bountiful crop of dogberries was back in 2013.
It will be interesting to see what the upcoming winter has in store for us.