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Cornus florida

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus FLOR-ih-dah
Description

Flowering dogwood is a woody, deciduous, flowering understory tree in the Cornaceae (dogwood) family that may grow 15 to 25 feet tall. It is native from southeastern Canada to eastern North America to eastern Mexico. The genus name comes from the Latin word for horn, cornu, most likely in reference to the tree’s hard, dense wood. 

Locate flowering dogwood in a site that receives full sun to partial shade and plant in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter and has an acidic to neutral pH. A 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch will help keep the roots cool and moist in hot summers. Propagate flowering dogwood by seed or stem cutting. 

Dogwood’s true flowers are visited by butterflies and specialized bees, and its red fruits are a food source for songbirds and other wildlife from fall through winter.  This tree is quite tolerant to heat once established and has a low flammability rating.

The dogwood flower, which is actually the petal-like bracts, is the state flower of North Carolina, and the tree is found throughout the state, usually growing under larger forest trees and at woodland edges. With multi-season interest, it has many landscape uses: a butterfly, pollinator, or children’s garden, a native or winter garden, accenting a patio or play area, a specimen, or shade tree.  

 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Showy bracts emerge before the leaves.
  • Leaves are opposite with veins that bend up toward the tip.
  • Leaves have a smooth to wavy margin. 
  • Bark becomes scaly to finely blocky as it matures.


Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Calico scale, dogwood borer, dogwood sawfly, Japanese maple scale, leafhoppers, oyster shell scale are a problem. Dogwood anthracnose is not all that common, only occurring at 1800 feet or higher elevation. Spot anthracnose is more common. Trees are also susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, root rot and leaf, twig blight crown canker, bacterial leaf scorch, powdery mildew, and septoria leaf spot. The foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer, and these trees do not withstand pollution.

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Backyard Patio Border Garden- Pathway Flower Bonanza Garden Mountain Ridge Top Garden - North Lawn and Upper Drive Border Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border Woodland Walk Flower Bonanza Garden Storage Cottage Driveway Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Appalachian Blush'
  • 'Appalachian Spring'
    white flowers
  • 'Cherokee Brave'
    Red flowers, resistant to powdery mildew, moderately resistant to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Chief'
    Red flowers, resistant to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Daybreak'
    Variegated foliage, highly susceptible to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Princess'
    White flowers, highly susceptible to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Sunset'
    variegated foliage
  • 'Cloud 9'
    white flowers
  • 'Double White'
    Moderately resistant to powdery mildew and spot anthracnose
  • 'Pringlei'
  • 'Pygmy'
    dwarf cultivar
  • 'Rubra'
    Pink flowers, moderately resistant to spot antracnose
  • 'Sweetwater'
    red flowers
  • 'Weaver's White'
    Resistant to spot anthracnose
  • 'Welch's Bay Beauty'
    Resistant to spot anthracnose
'Appalachian Blush', 'Appalachian Spring', 'Cherokee Brave', 'Cherokee Chief', 'Cherokee Daybreak', 'Cherokee Princess', 'Cherokee Sunset', 'Cloud 9', 'Double White', 'Pringlei', 'Pygmy', 'Rubra', 'Sweetwater', 'Weaver's White', 'Welch's Bay Beauty'
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#interesting bark#wildlife plant#native tree#nectar plant#shade garden#shelter#winter interest#tsc#fall interest#playground#year-round interest#specialized bees#food source wildlife#cpp#fire low flammability#NC native#deer browsing plant#children's garden#native garden#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#understory planting#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#fall color red#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#FACU Piedmont Mountains#Coastal FACU#nectar plant early spring#tsc-t#pollinator garden#bee friendly#Audubon#spring azure butterfly#mccarthy memorial garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Appalachian Blush'
  • 'Appalachian Spring'
    white flowers
  • 'Cherokee Brave'
    Red flowers, resistant to powdery mildew, moderately resistant to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Chief'
    Red flowers, resistant to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Daybreak'
    Variegated foliage, highly susceptible to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Princess'
    White flowers, highly susceptible to spot anthracnose
  • 'Cherokee Sunset'
    variegated foliage
  • 'Cloud 9'
    white flowers
  • 'Double White'
    Moderately resistant to powdery mildew and spot anthracnose
  • 'Pringlei'
  • 'Pygmy'
    dwarf cultivar
  • 'Rubra'
    Pink flowers, moderately resistant to spot antracnose
  • 'Sweetwater'
    red flowers
  • 'Weaver's White'
    Resistant to spot anthracnose
  • 'Welch's Bay Beauty'
    Resistant to spot anthracnose
'Appalachian Blush', 'Appalachian Spring', 'Cherokee Brave', 'Cherokee Chief', 'Cherokee Daybreak', 'Cherokee Princess', 'Cherokee Sunset', 'Cloud 9', 'Double White', 'Pringlei', 'Pygmy', 'Rubra', 'Sweetwater', 'Weaver's White', 'Welch's Bay Beauty'
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#interesting bark#wildlife plant#native tree#nectar plant#shade garden#shelter#winter interest#tsc#fall interest#playground#year-round interest#specialized bees#food source wildlife#cpp#fire low flammability#NC native#deer browsing plant#children's garden#native garden#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#understory planting#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#fall color red#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#FACU Piedmont Mountains#Coastal FACU#nectar plant early spring#tsc-t#pollinator garden#bee friendly#Audubon#spring azure butterfly#mccarthy memorial garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cornus
    Species:
    florida
    Family:
    Cornaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    This plant was used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans, as well as for carvings, looms, and disinfectant. Wood is hard, heavy, close grained and strong. Often used for textile shuttles and spools as well as handles for tools.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South Eastern Canada, Eastern North America, to Eastern Mexico
    Distribution:
    S. Ontario to Maine south to Florida, east to KS and Texas.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It is a host plant for the spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) butterfly/larvae. Flights are from May to August in Canada but range from January through October near the Gulf Coast. Butterflies nectar on the blooms.  Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouse, quail, wild turkey, chipmunks, black bear, foxes, white-tailed deer, skunks, and squirrels. Members of the genus Cornus support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilis, Andrena (Gonandrena) integra, and Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia. The fruits are food for birds. Deer eat the leaves and twigs.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Edible fruit
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    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)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Fruit is a glossy bright, shiny red, oval drupes (0.5" )in tight clusters of 3 or 4 that are bitter and inedible to humans but loved by birds. They display from August to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Cross
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Blooms early spring before leaf-out, March-May, the true flowers at the center, are green and insignificant, but are surrounded by 4 petal-like 2 inch long bracts, notched at the ends, that are often mistaken for the actual flowers. Flower buds are round and flattened at the ends of stems, (many) greenish-yellow; bud is biscuit-shaped, glabrous and flattened, gray-green, at branch ends, covered by 2 large silky scales becoming 2 of the showy white bracts.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Cuneate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Veins curve from base of leaf to tip. Opposite, simple, oval to ovate, acuminate, cuneate to rotund, entire, dull green above, glaucous beneath and pubescent on the veins, 6-7 vein pairs, 2.5-6" long. The fall color is red to reddish purple.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Square
    Bark Description:
    Attractive, dark gray, brown or black bark that is broken into small scaly blocks as the tree matures.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Horizontal branching. Slender, green to purple, sometimes coated with fine powder, pubescent when young, later glabrous; bark broken into small squarish and rectangular, grayish-brown to blackish blocks.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Mass Planting
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Understory Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Deer
    Fire
    Wind
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems