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Cornus florida

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus FLOR-ih-dah
Description

Flowering Dogwood is a deciduous tree that may grow 15 to 25 feet tall. 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. A very small and inconspicuous, tight cluster of green flowers surrounded by 4 very showy, large, white (occasionally pink) bracts mature in early spring. The small tree produces a cluster of red drupes that mature in the fall.

The Flowering dogwood is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, 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.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

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.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Bark is broken into small squares, rectangles
  • Small deciduous tree that flowers before leaves
  • Fruit is cluster of ovoid drupes, green to red
  • Cross-shaped flower of 4 large white, notched bracts
  • Lateral veins ecenly spaced

Small, deciduous tree or wide spreading shrub, to 32'. 

Blooms in spring before leaves; Fruit ripens from green to red in fall, persists to winter (unless birds eat them); good fall color (red to reddish purple); naked tree has tiered look. 

Tolerates full sun to part shade, prefers acid, well-drained, cool, moist soil enriched with organic matter; intolerant high heat loads, drought, extreme cold; insect/disease problems.

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • '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
  • '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
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#fruit#deciduous#fall color#birds#small tree#understory#interesting bark#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#shade tolerant#nectar plant#shelter#winter interest#tsc#host plant#playground#host#year-round interest#showy bark#specialized bees#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#children's garden#native garden#fire resistant#pollinator plant#fantz#food source fall#butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • '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
  • '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
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#fruit#deciduous#fall color#birds#small tree#understory#interesting bark#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#shade tolerant#nectar plant#shelter#winter interest#tsc#host plant#playground#host#year-round interest#showy bark#specialized bees#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#children's garden#native garden#fire resistant#pollinator plant#fantz#food source fall#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.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South Eastern Canada to Eastern Mexico
    Distribution:
    ME to S. Ontario, IL to KS to FL, TX and M
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It is a host plant for the Azure butterfly.  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.
    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
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    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:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    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, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    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 drupes (0.5" )in cluster of 3-4 that are bitter and inedible to humans but loved by birds. They ripen in September. A crowded head, terminal, 0.5" wide, subtended by large white bracts; bracts (4) obovate, apex truncate & notched, 1.5". A cluster of ovoid drupes, red.
  • 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, April-May, the true flowers are at the center, are green and insignificant but are surrounded by 4 petal-like 2" long bracts. Flower buds are round and flattened at the ends of stems. (many) greenish-yellow; bud is biscuit-shaped, globose and flattened, gray-green, at branch ends, covered by 2 large silky scales becoming 2 of the showy white bracts.
  • Leaves:
    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 Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Square
    Bark Description:
    Attractive, dark gray, brown or black, resembles alligator skin-blocky.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    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:
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Flowering Tree
    Mass Planting
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems