Friday, June 12, 2015
Meet The "Flowering Dogwood" (Cornus florida)
The Flowering Dogwood - Cornus florida - is by far the most common of all Dogwoods, there are about 40 varieties growing in mostly temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia. Of the 40 varieties growing worldwide only 14 varieties of these trees and shrubs are native to America. Dogwoods for the most part are considered a small deciduous tree or shrub, they have a very slow growth rate and generally do not achieve great age or size. This tree is also considered a soil improver as the leaf litter tends to decompose more rapidly then other tree species.
Image Citation: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
The crown grows in a bushy and open fashion with small green leaves that change to a beautiful red in the fall. The bark has a almost square pattern and is reddish-brown in color, in winter this is the main way to distinguish a Flowering Dogwood from other varieties of Dogwood such as the Kousa.
Image Citation: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The berries are a glossy bright red and are most showy when the leaves begin to turn, they grow in tight clusters at the end of a long stalk. The flesh of the fruit is mealy and bitter and encloses 1-2 seeds. Dogwood berries are poisonous to humans if consumed so NEVER try to taste these berries!
Image Citation: David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The flowers are generally 3-4 inches across and are made up of 4 large bracts, surrounding a mass of tiny yellow-green true flowers, appearing before the leaves in early Spring, a welcome sight after a long winter!
Image Citations (Left Photo) : Wendy VanDyk Evans, Bugwood.org & (Right Photo): Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Native Americans used various parts of the Dogwood as a natural medicine. The root bark was used as a pain reliever, astringent, and anti-diarrhea agent. The flowers were infused to relieve fever and sooth colic pain. The bark was used as a fever reducer and often chewed to aid with sore throat.
The Flowering Dogwood is a widely grown ornamental tree found at most nurseries. It thrives in zones 5-9. Well drained soil is best for Flowering Dogwoods as they are not tolerant to drought conditions or saturated soils. Full establishment of a new planting can take anywhere from 6-12 months for each inch of trunk diameter.