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Flowering Dogwood Cornus florida


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Flowering Dogwood, habit
credit: Dcrjsr/CCSA

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Family: Cornaceae, Dogwood view all from this family

Description Cornus florida is native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southern Ontario, Illinois, and eastern Kansas, and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas, with a disjunct population in Nuevo Len and Veracruz in eastern Mexico.

The flowering dogwood is usually included in the dogwood genus Cornus as Cornus florida L., although it is sometimes treated in a separate genus as Benthamidia florida (L.) Spach. Two subspecies are generally recognized:
Cornus florida subsp. florida. Eastern United States, southeastern Canada (Ontario).
Cornus florida subsp. urbiniana (Rose) Rickett (syn. Cornus urbiniana Rose). Eastern Mexico (Nuevo Len, Veracruz).

Flowering dogwood is a small deciduous tree growing to 10 m (33 ft) high, often wider than it is tall when mature, with a trunk diameter of up to 30 cm (1 ft). A 10-year-old tree will stand about 5 m (16 ft) tall. The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, 6–13 cm long and 4–6 cm broad, with an apparently entire margin (actually very finely toothed, under a lens); they turn a rich red-brown in fall.

The flowers are individually small and inconspicuous, with four greenish-yellow petals 4 mm long. Around 20 flowers are produced in a dense, rounded, umbel-shaped inflorescence, or flower-head, 1–2 cm in diameter. The flower-head is surrounded by four conspicuous large white, pink or red "petals" (actually bracts), each bract 3 cm long and 2.5 cm broad, rounded, and often with a distinct notch at the apex. The flowers are bisexual.

When in the wild they can typically be found at the forest edge and popular on dry ridges. While most of the wild trees have white bracts, some selected cultivars of this tree also have pink bracts, some even almost a true red. They typically flower in early April in the southern part of their range, to late April or early May in northern and high altitude areas. The similar Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa), native to Asia, flowers about a month later.

The fruit is a cluster of two to ten drupes, each 10–15 mm long and about 8 mm wide, which ripen in the late summer and the early fall to a bright red, or occasionally yellow with a rosy blush. They are an important food source for dozens of species of birds, which then distribute the seeds.

Habitat Canyons & valleys, Cities, suburbs & towns, Fields.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Eastern Canada, Southeast, New England, Texas, Great Lakes, Plains.

Comments This is one of the most popular landscape trees sold in the eastern U.S. Failures almost always occur from planting in the wrong place. Trees must be adapted to your site's climate and soil. Soil must be at least moderately drained and slightly acid, and the site must be partly shady. (Heavy shade is tolerated, but blooming suffers.) To protect against dogwood anthracnose in northern regions, provide cool air drainage and a half day of sun. Because of a shallow root system, grass should be kept away from the base. Unhealthy trees are susceptible to a number of pests.

Exposure Preference Partial shade.

Flower April - May

Native Distribution Florida to Texas, n. to s. Maine, Ontario, s. Illinois, extreme s.e. Kansas & Oklahoma

Site Preference Deciduous woods; thickets; bluffs; wood edges; dry uplands

Soil Preference Rich, well-drained, acid soil. pH 5.5-6.5.

Wildlife Value Fruits attract water, ground and songbirds, squirrels and deer.