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.
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).
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.
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.