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Cornus sericea

Previously known as:

  • Cornus stolonifera
  • Swida sericea
Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus san-GWIN-ee-ah
Description

Red twig dogwood is a large, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub in the Cornaceae (dogwood) family and native to most of North America, including North Carolina. Growing to a height and width of 6 to 9 feet, it is typically found growing in damp boggy areas, riparian areas, or wetland margins. The common name indicates the bright red color of the stems. The genus Cornus is from the Latin name for horn. Sericea is Latin for silky and is in reference to fine hairs found on the tops of leaves and lining new twigs.  

Although it tolerates a range of soil conditions, including wet and dry sites and heavy clay soil, it prefers organically rich, consistently moist soil. Plant it in full sun to partial shade, though plants can become stressed in full sun during our hot southern summers. Its showy red stems provide great winter interest. The brightest color occurs on new stem growth, so prune the plant back in early spring to stimulate more growth. It grows vigorously and spreads by underground stems to form a colony that can become weedy in some areas, though its spreading roots can help mitigate erosion. If its spread is undesirable, root prune it with a spade.

White flowers appear in the early summer, followed by white berries that last into the fall and are a food source for songbirds. The leaves turn attractive shades of orange or red, fading to purple in the fall. When they drop, the showy bright red stems make this plant have true year-round interest.  

This wildlife plant is a larval host for butterflies and supports bees and birds, so it makes an excellent addition to a pollinator garden. It works well as a specimen, massed in a shrub border, or used in front of an evergreen hedge for contrast. Tolerating wet areas allows it to be planted in low spots in the landscape. Use multiple plants to form a hedge or thicket and provide screening or security. This plant is seldom browsed by deer.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Vibrant red stems and twigs are very conspicuous in the winter months
  • Dense clusters of flat-topped, creamy-white flowers in mid-to late spring
  • Bluish-tinged white berries in late summer and early fall
  • Reddish-purple fall foliage

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems: Borers, leaf miners, and scale are potential insect pests. While not susceptible to dogwood anthracnose, when stressed, it is susceptible to a large number of disease problems, including powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, root rot, and leaf and twig blight.

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 landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Alleman's Compact
    5 feet tall, 5 feet wide, good fall color, compact
  • 'Cardinal'
    Rapid-growing, max size 6'-9' tall, good fall color
  • 'Farrow' or commonly sold as ARCTIC FIRE
    red stems, 3-5 feet tall, 8-10 feet wide, compact form
  • Firedance
    4 feet tall, 5 feet wide, compact form
  • 'Flaviramea' Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea'
    Golden twig dogwood famous for golden colored stalks for winter interest
  • Isanti
    6 feet tall, 10 feet wide, compact, hardy to zone 2
  • 'Kelseyi'
    3 feet tall, 3 feet wide, compact form
  • 'Silver and Gold'
    8 feet tall, 10 feet wide, yellow stems, creamy and green colored variegated foliage
  • 'Silver and White'
    Variety with variegated leaves, white fringes with green blade
Alleman's Compact, 'Cardinal', 'Farrow' or commonly sold as ARCTIC FIRE, Firedance, 'Flaviramea', Isanti, 'Kelseyi', 'Silver and Gold', 'Silver and White'
Tags:
#cultivars#deciduous#vigorous#rain garden#specimen#white flowers#wildlife plant#weedy#nectar plant#cover plant#shelter for wildlife#slopes#riparian#tsc#fall interest#cottage garden#wetlands#security plant#year-round interest#hedges#stream banks#small mammals#specialized bees#multistemmed#Azure butterfly#deer resistant#thickets#children's garden#red stems#playground plant#edible fruits#fruits fall#border planting#pollinator plant#nesting sites#larval host plant#white fruits#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#fall color red#butterfly friendly#fall color purple#tsc-s#bee friendly#bog garden#red bark#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Alleman's Compact
    5 feet tall, 5 feet wide, good fall color, compact
  • 'Cardinal'
    Rapid-growing, max size 6'-9' tall, good fall color
  • 'Farrow' or commonly sold as ARCTIC FIRE
    red stems, 3-5 feet tall, 8-10 feet wide, compact form
  • Firedance
    4 feet tall, 5 feet wide, compact form
  • 'Flaviramea' Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea'
    Golden twig dogwood famous for golden colored stalks for winter interest
  • Isanti
    6 feet tall, 10 feet wide, compact, hardy to zone 2
  • 'Kelseyi'
    3 feet tall, 3 feet wide, compact form
  • 'Silver and Gold'
    8 feet tall, 10 feet wide, yellow stems, creamy and green colored variegated foliage
  • 'Silver and White'
    Variety with variegated leaves, white fringes with green blade
Alleman's Compact, 'Cardinal', 'Farrow' or commonly sold as ARCTIC FIRE, Firedance, 'Flaviramea', Isanti, 'Kelseyi', 'Silver and Gold', 'Silver and White'
Tags:
#cultivars#deciduous#vigorous#rain garden#specimen#white flowers#wildlife plant#weedy#nectar plant#cover plant#shelter for wildlife#slopes#riparian#tsc#fall interest#cottage garden#wetlands#security plant#year-round interest#hedges#stream banks#small mammals#specialized bees#multistemmed#Azure butterfly#deer resistant#thickets#children's garden#red stems#playground plant#edible fruits#fruits fall#border planting#pollinator plant#nesting sites#larval host plant#white fruits#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#fall color red#butterfly friendly#fall color purple#tsc-s#bee friendly#bog garden#red bark#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cornus
    Species:
    sericea
    Family:
    Cornaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans are known to have used this plant for basketweaving and in tool making. It was also used as food.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America
    Distribution:
    Native: Canada--Alberta, British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territory, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan; Mexico--Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, and Mexico Southwest; USA--AK, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, ID, IL, IO, KS, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY; Introduced: Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Great Britain, and Switzerland
    Wildlife Value:
    Fruits are attractive to birds and small mammals and plants provide nesting sites.  It is the larval host plant of the Spring Azure butterfly. Members of the genus Cornus support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilis, Andrena (Gonandrena) integra, and Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Wildlife Nesting
    Dimensions:
    Height: 5 ft. 0 in. - 9 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    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:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3b, 3a, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    White with a blue tinge fruits are attractive to birds and hold even more ornamental value than the flowers.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Dull white flowers on flat-topped cyme in early summer; short-lived dark purple drupe in fall
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Opposite, medium to dark green ovate to lacelolate leaves, reticulate veins, entire magins; 2" to 5" long; go from orange to red to purple in the fall.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Showy smooth red bark provides winter interest.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Slender, upright bright red to dark blood-red stems with horizontal branching provide interest in winter; the best color on young, vigorous stems so severely prune in early spring.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Slope/Bank
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Security
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Dry Soil
    Erosion
    Wet Soil
    Wind