The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

July Observations: The Dogwood Saw Down


I have been busy as a bee this summer. So busy I am distracted while in the garden – as in not all there – during the few rare moments I do spend in my garden. That has to change! I purposely post monthly observations – so, I’m a little late with July since it is already August – to keep me grounded in the garden and aware. Well, things are changing! I have just spent two glorious days in my garden and will be there – all there – just as soon as I publish this post, for the entire afternoon. I can’t tell you how much better I feel! The point is, it takes something really “IN YOUR FACE” for me to notice goings ons lately. And that is what I stumbled upon, blindly or not, the first day in my garden. Whoa! What happened to my Dogwood? (Red osier, Cornus sericea)


It has been devoured! I actually OBSERVED, closely, the leaves, or what remained of them.


Well, at least the berries are intact. Ah, there, some sort of caterpillar. Immediately I google Red Osier Dogwood host plant. It is the host plant for the Spring Azure Butterfly – I love those little beauties! But wait, upon even closer observation these “caterpillars” do not look like those of the Spring Azure. What they do resemble are bird droppings which might explain why the flocks of birds in my garden have not eaten every last one? Birds, no thanks to you, my Dogwood has been sawed down by Dogwood Sawfly larvae. For those intent upon spraying and poisoning the world in the name of shrubbery – chemical control is only effective when the larvae are less than 25 mm long. Horticultural soaps and oils are also effective. Me, I try to be patient (if not observant) and rely on nature.



Further research exclaims that the damage is rarely lethal. In other words, plant mortality risk is low. But by the second day in my garden, I am doubting and second guessing my “research” and wondering just where IS nature’s balance?


Yikes, this is the larvae mature! (To see an adult Dogwood Sawfly click here.)


So, all those white “poopy” ones haven’t even matured yet? I fear for the Dogwood – nature is not stepping up here – and so I begin shaking the little poopy heads into a bowl of water. But wait, what is this? What happened to you?


It is only then, because my observation skills have obviously declined, I notice the large number of wasps flitting about. Wow, look at that! They are eating these guys!



I am an amateur at identifying specific types of wasps – I mean I can barely observe the slightest fly by lately, but I believe the wasp pictured above is Polistes dominulus and the wasp pictured below enjoying dinner on the nearby rain barrel is Polistes fuscatus, both types of Paper Wasps found in the Northeast. I like wasps. I know most people cringe and think “STING” but I find them fascinating to watch and well, now, I also really appreciate their taste in food!



Paper Wasps are also called Umbrella Wasps for the shape of their uncovered combs frequently suspended beneath the eaves of houses according to my Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America.

And so my faith is restored, renewed. I often exclaim that my garden is my church. It has yet again enlightened me with its latest sermon: Be aware! Have patience, and faith. Life (nature) is a balance. Everything works out. Amen!


Author: Kathy Sturr

Cultivating art, growing soul, and creating plant-based food in the beautiful 1000 Islands, New York and Cedar Key, Old Florida.

9 thoughts on “July Observations: The Dogwood Saw Down

  1. ewwww…yucky, but really cool it does balance. Love the final quote-“And so my faith is restored, renewed. I often exclaim that my garden is my church. It has yet again enlightened me with its latest sermon: Be aware! Have patience, and faith. Life (nature) is a balance. Everything works out. Amen!” … true + like you I have not been paying as much attention to mine this year either….but it takes care of itself. I would of been right there with you watching the whole thing go down!!lol really neat!

    • Robbie, it’s great to know that there’s someone out there who would also be into watching the gore ha ha. I will think of you each time I come across insects in the garden – now, Robbie would love this! I need another church session!

      • lol:-) I thought that shot with them under the leaves was “icky” but I would stand there an watch them live for sure!!!

  2. for me it is snails and our tabakrolletjie snakes. Nicely in balance, and I need to walk mindfully as the snakes are basking in the winter sun on the gravel path.

    • Yikes Diana! I think I would rather watch monster wasps devour bird poop than step on a snake, ha ha. I can’t figure why I don’t have any snakes or toads for that matter! I have so many bugs, snails, slugs, mice, etc. It eludes me …

      • our snakes are harmless. The Afrikaans common name comes from their defense – coil up like a wad of tobacco with their head tucked ‘safely’ inside. Poor little creatures.
        Perhaps the toads want more water. Remind me – do you have a pond?

  3. excellent news…I had something attacking 2 dogwoods but not these insects…we had to cut them down…..we will probably replace them

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