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Cornus amomum is often confused with:
Cornus alternifolia Cornus alternifolia
Native alternative(s) for Cornus amomum:
Cornus racemosa Close up of flowers
Cornus sericea Cornus sericea red stem
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Vaccinium corymbosum Vaccinium corymbosum
Ilex verticillata ilex verticillata fruit and leaves
Symplocos tinctoria Symplocos tinctoria

Cornus amomum

Previously known as:

  • Swida amomum
Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus ah-MOH-mum
Description

Silky dogwood is large to a medium-sized deciduous shrub that may grow 6 to 12 feet tall. The shrub is multi-stemmed, open, and rounded. Clusters of creamy white flowers bloom in the spring followed by blue drupes that ripen late summer. The leaves and twigs have silky hairs. A distinctive feature of this shrub is the dark brown pith of 1 to 2-year-old stems and dark-reddish twigs.

The silky dogwood is native to central and the eastern part of the United States and parts of Canada. It is typically found in swamp borders, wetlands, and near streams and ponds.

The genus name, Cornus, is Latin from the word, cornu, which means "horn." This refers to the hardness of the wood. This shrub has several common names including swamp dogwood. This references its usual habitat. 

The silly dogwood prefers well-drained medium to wet acidic soils. It may be grown in full sun, partial shade, and even tolerates close to full shade. The roots need to be kept cool and moist during the summer. It is recommended that 2 to 4 inches of mulch be added to protect the plant's roots. If the shrub branches touch the ground they may form roots at the nodes. Thickets may result if the growth of the shrub is not controlled. The shrub also may be propagated by seeds, cuttings, or layering.

The creamy white clusters of blooms appear at the tips of the branches from May to June. The leaves are dark green, alternate, simple, pubescent, and acutely veined with a smooth margin. The berry-like drupes appear in drooping clusters from August to September and attract many birds. The twigs are usually dark reddish-purple with fine hairs. The older bark is smooth and gray.

This is a good shrub selection for moist to wet areas of the landscape. It is not overly ornamental and is somewhat wild and unkempt for placement in prominent areas. Consider the silky dogwood for moist woodlands, naturalized areas, or sites near streams/ponds. It is also effective for erosion control.

NC Native Shrub

Seasons of interest:   

Bloom: Spring           Fruit:  Summer             Twigs:  Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • open, rounded, medium-sized shrub
  • silky hairs on the leaves and twigs
  • creamy white clusters of flowers in the spring
  • drupes ripen to dark blue in late summer
  • dark-reddish purple twigs
  • smooth gray bark
  • dark brown pith in 1 to 2-year-old stems

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The silky dogwood has no serious insects or disease problems. It may be susceptible to scale. Borers and leaf miners are potential pests. Leaf spot, crown canker, blights, root rot, and powdery mildew may occur. Thickets may form if the shrub is not maintained.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Indigo'
    small white flowers and blue fruits
'Indigo'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#rain garden#wildlife plant#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#native shrub#riparian#wetlands#erosion control#hedges#pond margins#specialized bees#food source wildlife#cpp#fire medium flammability#NC native#cream flowers#ponds#native garden#acidic soils tolerant#pollinator plant#naturalized area#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source summer#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#wet soils tolerant#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#streams#bee friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#Audubon#erosion tolerant#woodland garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Indigo'
    small white flowers and blue fruits
'Indigo'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#rain garden#wildlife plant#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#native shrub#riparian#wetlands#erosion control#hedges#pond margins#specialized bees#food source wildlife#cpp#fire medium flammability#NC native#cream flowers#ponds#native garden#acidic soils tolerant#pollinator plant#naturalized area#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source summer#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#wet soils tolerant#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#streams#bee friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#Audubon#erosion tolerant#woodland garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cornus
    Species:
    amomum
    Family:
    Cornaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The bark was used by Native Americans as tobacco.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Distribution:
    Native: Canada--Ontario and New Foundland: US--AL, CT, DE, DC, FL, IL, IN, IO, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, and WV
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It is the host plant for the spring/summer Azure butterflies. Butterflies nectar at its blooms. Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouse, quail, turkey, chipmunks, black bear, foxes, white-tailed deer, skunks, and squirrels. The foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer. Members of the genus Cornus support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilis, Andrena (Gonandrena) integra, and Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Wildlife Nesting
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer, Erosion, Wet Soil, Black Walnut. Heat, drought, and soil compaction tolerant.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Mounding
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The round drupes are 1/4 inch in diameter. They change from white to blue as they ripen. A cluster of drupes droops from greenish or reddish stalks. Displays from August to September.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The tiny creamy-white flowers are arranged in flat-topped cymes that are up to 2.5 inches across. The individual flowers are about 3/8 inch wide and have four petals, four sepals, and four long stamens. The flower stalks have silky hairs. The blooms appear from May to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Insignificant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are simple, opposite, and elliptical to ovate. The margins are entire. Each leaf measures from 2 to 3.5 inches long and 3/4 to 2 inches wide. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green, and the underside is a paler green. Both surfaces have short stiff hairs. The fall foliage may be green, brown, or purplish-red.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    The bark is thin, smooth, and gray.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The young twigs may be greenish-purple to dark reddish-purple. They are covered with fine hairs. Older branches are dark purple and eventually develop vertical brownish lenticels or pores. The pith is brown on branches over a year old.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Near Septic
    Pond
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Erosion
    Wet Soil