Flowering Dogwood

(Cornus florida)

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Leaves                            Flower              


Bark                               Fruits






Family:  Cornaceae

Habitat: They occur commonly in the

Understory or edge of forest areas –

especially in well drained, moist soils of

woodlands, bluffs and clearings. They can

tolerate dry soils but not excessive sunlight

or drying winds. 


Range: Found along the east coast of the

United States as well as Ontario.  It grows

also in many southern states and extends

westward into Texas. 




Physical Characteristics:

A small tree usually 15-25 feet high (max ~ 40

feet) that is typically shorter than it is wide.


Leaves: The leaves are opposite, 6-12

centimeters in length and 4-6 centimeters in

width. They are ovate in shape and dark green

in color. These turn purplish-red to scarlet in the

fall.  Under magnification, the edge of the leaf

appears finely toothed.


Flower: Flowers appear in the early spring and

occur in groups of 20 growing in a dense

inflorescence (cluster).  The flower head is 1-2

centimeters in diameter.  It is surrounded by 4

large bracts that are either white, pink or red.

These are modified leaves rather than petals.   


Fruit: The fruits are 10-15 millimeters in

length and 8 millimeters wide.  They ripen

in the summer or early fall and are a bright

red or reddish-yellow in color. They are

technically “drupes” rather than berries

(drupe = fleshy non-splitting fruit

surrounding a hard shell enclosing the seed).


Interesting Facts:


The fruits although consumed by at least 40

species of birds and 9 species of mammals

are poisonous to people.


The species has been victimized by pathogenic

fungus (first discovered on dogwoods in the

1970s) which has threatened populations

throughout the eastern U.S. Especially

vulnerable are trees growing where leaves can

remain wet for considerable time. 


A powder made from the bark and twigs was

once used for toothpaste. The bark was also

used to treat fevers.


In 2012 the United States gave Japan 3,000

dogwood saplings to commemorate the 100

year anniversary of Japan's gift of cherry

trees to the United States in 1912.


Webpage References:





Additional References:

Kaveriappa K.M. et. al. Micropropagation of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

from seedlings. Plant Cell Reports 16: 485-489.


McEwan, R. W. et al. 2000. Temporal and ecological patterns of flowering dogwood

mortality in the mixed mesophytic forest of eastern Kentucky.  Journal of the

Torrey Botanical Society 127:221-229.


Sacchi, C. F. and Connor, E. F. (1999). Changes in Reproduction and Architecture

in Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, after Attack by the Dogwood Club Gall,

Resseliella clavula. Oikos  86:138-146.


Sherald, J. L. et al. 1996. Progression of the dogwood anthracnose epicemic and status

of flowering dogwood in Catoctin Mountain park. Plant Disease 80:310-312.