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Cornus foemina is often confused with:
Cornus racemosa Close up of flowers
Cornus sericea Cornus sericea red stem
Native alternative(s) for Cornus foemina:
Cornus racemosa Close up of flowers
Cornus sericea Cornus sericea red stem
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Halesia carolina Full Form
Cornus florida Cornus florida
Acer pensylvanicum Form

Swamp Dogwood Cornus foemina

Other plants called Swamp Dogwood:

Previously known as:

  • Cornus stricta
  • Swida foemina
  • Swida stricta
Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus fem-min-nuh
Description

Stiff Dogwood is a deciduous flowering shrub or small tree with attractive red twigs, clusters of showy white flowers in the spring, and pale blue to blue-violet fruits in the fall. The tree or shrub may grow from 10 to 25 feet tall. 

The Stiff Dogwood is a native of the East-Central and the Southeastern United States. Its habitats include the banks of streams and rivers, ponds and lakes, and floodplain forests.

The genus name, Cornus, is Latin from the word, cornu, which means "horn." This references the hardness of the wood. The Stiff Dogwood has other common names that include Swamp Dogwood, Stiff Cornel Dogwood, Bluefruit Dogwood, and English Dogwood.

This tree prefers full sun to partial shade and is very tolerant of wet soil conditions. The plant may be reproduced by seeds.

 The Stiff Dogwood is usually multi-trunked. The pith of the tree is white. The bark is reddish-brown on young plants and becomes gray and furrowed with age. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green and smooth, and the lower surfaces are pale gray-green with sparse hairs. The flowers are creamy-white and appear on the terminal ends of branches in the spring. The fruit is a blue drupe that is produced in the fall. 

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies. The leaves serve as food for the Spring Azure Butterfly larvae. The fruits are eaten by many songbirds, raccoons, black bears, squirrels, and chipmunks. Deer and rabbits will eat the foliage and twigs.

The Stiff Dogwood is not as showy as the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Florida). The tan pith of the Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) distinguishes it from the Stiff Dogwood that has a white pith. Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) is also similar to the Stiff Dogwood, but it has white drupes.

The Stiff Dogwood would be a good specimen for wet sites near ponds or streams since it is tolerant to poorly drained soils. The plant may do well for naturalizing or borders in moist and soggy sites.

NC Native shrub or tree

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage:  Fall      Bloom: Mid-Spring, Early Summer    Fruit:  Summer, Fall     Bark, twigs:  Winter 

Quick ID Hints:

  • wet soils tolerant
  • the bark and larger branches are gray
  • smaller branches are brown and smooth
  • young twigs are hairless, red, and have a white pith
  • the upper leaf surface is smooth and medium to dark green 
  • the lower leaf surface has sparse hairs and is grayish-green 
  • reddish-purple fall foliage
  • white flowers are arranged in clusters and have an unpleasant scent
  • the fruit is a fleshy blue to blue-violet drupe 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  There are no serious pests or diseases. 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#white flowers#native tree#native shrub#gray bark#fall interest#cottage garden#flowering tree#pond margins#NC native#flowering shrub#red stems#native garden#blue fruits#border planting#pollinator plant#larval host plant#wet soils tolerant#patio tree#wetland margins#pollinator garden#wildlife food source
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#white flowers#native tree#native shrub#gray bark#fall interest#cottage garden#flowering tree#pond margins#NC native#flowering shrub#red stems#native garden#blue fruits#border planting#pollinator plant#larval host plant#wet soils tolerant#patio tree#wetland margins#pollinator garden#wildlife food source
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cornus
    Species:
    foemina
    Family:
    Cornaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    East Central and Southeast United States
    Distribution:
    Native: AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MS, MO, NJ, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA
    Wildlife Value:
    They attract bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies. The fruits are a source of food for birds and small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Screening
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • 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:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6a, 6b, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    A two-seeded drupe replaces the spent blooms. The drupe is blue in color and 1/4" in diameter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    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 white flowers form in clusters or cymes with stamens and stigma extending above each blossom. The flower has 4 petals. They bloom from late spring to early summer. The flower's scent is reported as unpleasant. After blooming they are replaced by a seeded drupe.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Oblanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are elliptical, lanceolate, or oblanceolate in shape with entire margins. The base of the leaf is rounded, and the tip is acuminate. The midvein is red and there are 3 to 4 secondary veins. The upper leaf surface is smooth and dark green. The lower leaf surface is sparsely hairy and grayish-green.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    The bark is reddish-brown on young trees. As the tree ages, the bark becomes gray and furrowed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Corky Ridges
    Stem Description:
    The young stems may be green or red and later turn reddish-brown. The stems turn gray as the tree ages. The younger branches' pith is white and appears tan in older branches.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Pond
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Small Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil