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Cornus amomum

Common Name(s):
Silky dogwood
Native Plants, Shrubs, Trees

Cornus amomum, commonly called silky dogwood, is a medium-sized deciduous shrub that is typically found in moist lowland areas, swamp borders, floodplains, shrub wetlands, and along streams and ponds in Eastern North America (New Foundland to Ontario south to Missouri, Mississippi and Florida). Twigs and leaf undersides have silky hairs, hence the common name. This dogwood typically grows to 6-12’ tall with an open-rounded form.

The bark in young trees is red-purple and smooth.  As the tree/shrub ages, the bark turns brown and develops shallow fissures.

Genus name comes from the Latin word for horn (reference to hard wood). This shrub is also commonly called swamp dogwood in reference to habitat and kinnkinnik (tobacco) in reference to a prior use of shrub bark by Native Americans as tobacco.

Regions:  Mountain. Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Spring, summer            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Late summer, fall

Wildlife Value:  This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  It is the host plant for the spring/summer Azure butterflies.  Butterflies nectar at its blooms.  Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouse, quail, turkey, chipmunks, black bear, foxes, white-tailed deer, skunks, and squirrels.  The foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer.  Members of the genus Cornus support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilisAndrena (Gonandrena) integraand Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  The Silky Dogwood plant is susceptible to scale. Additional insect pests include borers and leaf miner. Infrequent disease problems include leaf spot, crown canker, blights, root rot and powdery mildew.

6-12 ft.
The Silky Dogwood has oval to elliptic, alternate, medium green leaves (2-5” long) with conspicuous veins. Attractive fall color is usually absent. The twigs are purplish brown in spring, and have a distinctive brown pith.
The Silky Dogwood has tiny yellowish-white flowers (showy petal-like white bracts are absent) in flat-topped clusters (cymes to 2.5” across) bloom in late spring to early summer. The flowers give way to attractive berry-like drupes that change from white to blue as they ripen in late summer (August).
The Silky Dogwood grows in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, organically rich, slightly acidic soils in part shade. It will tolerate close to full shade. It will benefit from a 2-4” mulch which will help keep roots cool and moist in summer. The branches that touch the ground may root at the nodes. When left alone, this shrub may spread to form thickets.
Open, rounded
Partial shade; tolerates wet to dry soil
Flat, white flower heads in mid-spring; not fragrant; pale blue berries turns black
6-12 ft.
Growth Rate:
cpp, riparian, pollinator, nesting, rain garden, deciduous, wet sites, bees, birds, nectar, hedge, specialized bees, wildlife, wet soil, host, wet, facultative-wetland, butterflies, showy

NCCES plant id: 470

Cornus amomum Form
John Bonser, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Cornus amomum Blooms
Kent McFarland, CC BY-NC-2.0
Cornus amomum Foliage and fruits.
Dan Mullan, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Cornus amomum Fruits, purple drupes
J. Michael Raby, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Cornus amomum Twigs
Kent McFarland, CC BY-NC-2.0