Cornus / Dogwood Trees
A lovely tree for all seasons with a spectacular spring show
The genus Cornus contains around 65 species of flowering deciduous shrubs and small trees, known as dogwoods. When most people hear the word dogwood, they think of the flowering dogwood tree (C. florida), a small, North American native understory tree growing naturally in thickets and along the edge of woodlands and streams. The tree reaches around 20 feet tall, having a similar spread, but can reach 40 feet tall with age and optimal conditions. Having gracefully tiered, horizontal branching; distinctive checkerboard bark; and a spectacular spring bloom, the dogwood tree has become an iconic spring-flowering tree. Its large, showy pink or white flowers appear in early to late spring, before the foliage. Clusters of bright red drupes (fruits) follow in mid to late summer, as the leaves begin to turn scarlet to purplish for autumn. Butterflies visit the flowers and songbirds enjoy the fruits.
The kousa dogwood (C. kousa) is similar to the flowering dogwood; however, it flowers later in spring, after the foliage has emerged. Kousa dogwood grows as a small- to medium-sized tree or multi-stemmed shrub. Vase shaped when young, it becomes horizontal branching, wide-spreading, and rounded as it matures. Its fruits resemble raspberries and appear as the foliage turns reddish-purple in fall. Its mottled, exfoliating, tan and brown bark is attractive in winter. Place carefully; berry drop can be messy.
The cornelian cherry dogwood (C. mas) grows as a small tree or a tall, multi-stemmed shrub. Small clusters of yellow flowers bloom in early spring, before the leaves emerge. Dark red fruits ripen midsummer. Fall color is minimal, with some yellow and reddish-purple color.
Dogwoods typically grow best in sunny to sun dappled locations but may need afternoon shade in warmer Zones. They prefer organically rich, well-draining soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.