April 2022 - Flowering Dogwood

Common name: Flowering Dogwood

Botanical Name: Cornus florida 

Native Range:  Considered hardy from zone 5-9 with variability noted if the tree is grown from seed within a range.

Height. Can reach a height of 40 ft with width surpassing height. The largest known specimen to date was measured at 42 ft.  It is considered an understory tree.

Spread: variable within a location with spread frequently surpassing height.

Growth Rate: slow at transplanting with the rate increasing to medium as the tree becomes acclimated.

Sun: prefers partial shade to full sun for part of the day

Soil: prefers acid, well-drained soil with some organic material/

Leaf Description: Leaves are simple, opposite, and are 3-6 inches long in an oval shape.  Color ranges from bronze-green to yellow-green as the leaves unfold turning dark green in summer. Fall color ranges from red to reddish-purple.  

Flower: True dogwood flowers are greenish-yellow and considered insignificant.  The trees form four bracts which are ‘showy’ blooming from April through May.

FruitThe fruit is a glossy red drupe that ripens in early fall. Some fruit can last through December and is favored by birds.

Bark. Grayish brown to black broken into small squares which are referred to as ‘Alligator bark’.

Wildlife Value: The seed, fruit, flowers, twigs,  bark, and leaves are used as a food source by more than 40 species of birds and wildlife. 

Possible Diseases and Insects: The tree is susceptible to borers, petal and leaf spots, anthracnose, and powdery mildew.  

Of note: The flowering dogwood is described s an ornamental species which is highly thought of for landscaping and urban forestry uses. There are many hybrids of Cornus florida with the Rutgers Stellar series considered highly resistant to both dogwood borer and anthracnose.  

Where to be found on municipal property: Newly planted Cherokee Princess’ native dogwood cultivars have been planted in the parking island of Marquand Park. 

Additional Facts:

  • The Flowering Dogwood is a native tree with four-season interest
  • Early Native Americans made medicinal teas from the dogwood bark. 
  • The dogwood’s extremely hardwood has been used to make golf club heads, the handles of chisels and mauls, and wedges and yokes
  • A red dye can be made from the bark of the roots.
  • The powdered bark of the trunk was reportedly used in toothpaste and black ink, and as an aspirin-like substance.
  • Song and game birds eat the berries and deer browse the twigs.
  • The showy bracts are pink, white, or pink and white, depending on the cultivar. 
  • Cornus florida is not drought site tolerant. 
  • See how much your dogwood is worth



Arborday.org tree guide




Dirr, M.A. 2009. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.6th ed. Stipes Pub. Champaign, Il.

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