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Cornus florida

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus FLOR-ih-dah
Description

Cornus Florida, or Flowering Dogwood, is a small, deciduous, flowering tree that may grow 15 to 25 feet tall and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Occasionally, it will reach a height of 40 feet with a trunk diameter of 12 to 18 inches. The leaves are alternate, acutely veined, with a smooth to wavy margin. The bark is smooth when young. As the tree ages, the bark becomes very scaly to finely blocky.

The  tree is known and admired for its display of very showy, large, white (occasionally pink) bracts that emerge before the leaves in early spring and surround small, inconspicuous, tight clusters of green flowers. The small tree also produces fruit in the form of a cluster of red drupes that mature in the fall. 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 under larger forest trees.

The Flowering dogwood is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. It will benefit from a 2-4” mulch which will help keep roots cool and moist in summer.  It can withstand hot temperatures as long as the roots remain moist and well-mulched.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:   Calico scale, dogwood borer, dogwood sawfly, Japanese maple scale, leafhoppers, oyster shell scale.   Dogwood anthracnose is not all that common, only occurs 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, and twig blight  crown canker, bacterial leaf scorch, powdery mildew, 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 Driveway Garden Flower Bonanza Garden Woodland Walk
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:
#bees#deciduous#fall color#small tree#understory#interesting bark#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#shade tolerant#nectar plant#shelter#winter interest#tsc#playground#year-round interest#showy bark#specialized bees#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#children's garden#native garden#fire resistant#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#FACU Piedmont Mountains#FACU Coastal#nectar plant early spring#tsc-t#pollinator garden#audubon#spring azure butterfly
 
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:
#bees#deciduous#fall color#small tree#understory#interesting bark#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#shade tolerant#nectar plant#shelter#winter interest#tsc#playground#year-round interest#showy bark#specialized bees#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#children's garden#native garden#fire resistant#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#FACU Piedmont Mountains#FACU Coastal#nectar plant early spring#tsc-t#pollinator garden#audubon#spring azure butterfly
  • 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
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape. Heat and drought tolerant.
    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. Fall color holds well. 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; fall color 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
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Deer
    Fire
    Wind
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems