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Cornus racemosa is often confused with:
Cornus foemina Cornus foemina
Cornus sericea Cornus sericea red stem
Native alternative(s) for Cornus racemosa:
Cornus foemina Cornus foemina
Cornus sericea Cornus sericea red stem
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Ulmus americana Full Form
Cornus sericea Cornus sericea red stem
Cornus florida Cornus florida

Cornus racemosa

Previously known as:

  • Cornus foemina subsp. racemosa
  • Cornus paniculata
Description

Gray dogwood is a native deciduous, rhizomatous shrub in the Cornaceae or Dogwood Family. It may grow up from 4 to 10 feet high as a shrub and up to 27 feet tall as a small tree. It is frequently planted for its showy flowers and fruits and colorful fall foliage. This plant spreads rapidly by growing suckers and is best used in naturalized settings. It will also serve to control erosion near ponds or embankments.

The Gray Dogwood is native to the Central and Eastern parts of Canada and the United States. It is found along roadsides, woodlands, meadows, forest margins, and riparian zones. It is most commonly found in the understories of forests with moderate to full sunlight.

The genus name, Cornus, is the Latin from the word, cornu, which means "horn." This references the hardness of the wood. The species name, racemosa, references the raceme inflorescence of the flowers.

The Gray Dogwood may be planted in full sun to partial shade and in a wide variety of soil types.  While it prefers moist soil, it withstands dry, wet, and poor soils well. They may be reproduced by seeds, soft and hardwood cuttings, suckers, division, and layering. The plant will colonize if the suckers are not removed.

The bark of the older trees is grayish-brown and the stems reddish in color. The upper surface leaves are dark green and the undersides are pale green to almost white with short stiff hairs. The creamy-white flowers bloom from May through June and form dome-shaped clusters. The fruits are white berries with red stems that appear from August to October. The fall foliage is a reddish-purple.

Many insects, including bees and butterflies, are attracted to this plant for pollen and nectar. Fruits are a good food source for many songbirds. They are also enjoyed by black bears, raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks. In dense thickets, the shrub provides shelter for birds and small mammals as well as nesting sites for birds.

The Gray Dogwood is a wonderful native plant that will add spring, summer, and fall interests to naturalized areas or informal gardens. Grown as a shrub, it may be used for borders or screening. 

The flowers, fruit, and leaves of the Gray Dogwood are similar to the Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea). The bark of the Gray Dogwood is gray, and the bark of the Red-osier Dogwood is deep red. 

NC Native shrub

Seasons of Interest:

  Foliage:  Fall          Bloom:  Spring          Fruit:  Late Summer and Fall        Bark, Stems, Twigs:  Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • Bark grayish-brown with small lenticels
  • Stems and twigs are red
  • Upper surface leaves dark green, lower surfaces are pale green to almost white
  • Short stiff hairs appear on both sides of the leaves
  • Reddish-purple leaves in the fall
  • Dome-shaped clusters of creamy-white flowers in the spring
  • Small white berries with red stems in the late summer and fall

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The Gray Dogwood has no serious insect pests or diseases.  Dogwood bud galls are occasionally seen but not usually a problem.  

VIDEO created by Grant L. Thompson for “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines for Landscaping” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.

 

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#rain garden#white flowers#deciduous shrub#native shrub#shade garden#winter interest#gray bark#NC native#flowering shrub#red stems#native garden#border planting#screening#pollinator plant#naturalized area#nesting sites#white fruits#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#fall color red#butterfly friendly#fall color purple#heavy shade tolerant#wildlife food source#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#rain garden#white flowers#deciduous shrub#native shrub#shade garden#winter interest#gray bark#NC native#flowering shrub#red stems#native garden#border planting#screening#pollinator plant#naturalized area#nesting sites#white fruits#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#fall color red#butterfly friendly#fall color purple#heavy shade tolerant#wildlife food source#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cornus
    Species:
    racemosa
    Family:
    Cornaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and Eastern Canada; Central and Eastern U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    Native: Canada--Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec; US--AR, CT, DC, IL, IN, IO, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, RI, SD, TX, VT, VA, WV, and WI;
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract bees and butterflies for pollen and nectar. Birds eat the berries. Ring-Neck Pheasant and Bob Whites like to eat the seeds and buds. The White-Tailed Deer and rabbits will browse the leaves and branches. The plant serves as a nesting site and shelter for birds and small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Nesting
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 27 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Erect
    Irregular
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • 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
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    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 fruits are fleshy, rounded white drupes that measure about 0.25 inches in diameter. Each drupe contains 1-2 seeds. The fruit stalks are red during the fall and early winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cross
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are creamy-white and measure 0.25 inches in diameter. The four petals are lance to elliptic in shape. The stamens are as long as the petals, and there is a single green-tipped style. The blooms are in clusters at the end of the branches. The clusters are about 1.5 to 2.5 inches across and form dome-shaped panicles.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are simple, opposite, and lance to elliptic in shape. They measure 2 to 3.5 inches long and 0.75 to 1.75 inches wide. The upper surface is dark green, but the lower surface is pale green to nearly white. Both surfaces have short stiff hairs. The margins are entire and slightly wavy.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Lenticels
    Bark Description:
    The older tree's bark is gray to grayish-brown with many small lenticels.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    The young stems vary in color from pale green, yellowish-green, to red. The fruit stems are red.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Pond
    Slope/Bank
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Dry Soil
    Heavy Shade
    Poor Soil
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil