Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
May 19, 2020 | PLANT SPOTLIGHT
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small understory tree native to the Eastern United States. Growing 15-30 feet in height and spread, it is quite showy in spring and fall. Flowering Dogwood is appropriate for USDA hardiness zones 5-9.
Flowers: Flowering Dogwoods bloom in spring before the leaves emerge. Four showy, petal-like white bracts surround a cluster of insignificant yellow flowers.
Fruit: Glossy oval red fruits are ½ inch long and borne in clusters. Botanically a drupe, each fruit consists of soft flesh surrounding a hard stone that contains one seed.
Fall Foliage: The dark green simple leaves turn a dramatic red-purple in fall.
Ecological Value: The seed, fruit, flowers, twigs, bark, and leaves are all used as food by various birds and mammals.
Cultural Uses: Historically, the hard wood was made into jewelry boxes and golf club heads. Medicinally, its uses ranged from colic to malaria. It is a great specimen for use in the home landscape and near utility lines where its small size makes it manageable.
Scientific Name: The genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn, possibly referring to the strength and density of the wood. The specific epithet comes from the Latin flos-meaning flower, in reference to its attractive spring flowers.
Interesting Fact: Native Americans planted their crops, particularly corn, when the Flowering Dogwoods were in bloom.
Location at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: Flowering Dogwood trees are native to this area and hundreds of specimens are located throughout the Garden. An example of in-situ flora (plants found in place) being incorporated into the Garden’s designs and plant collections, look for their lacy blooming branches in late April to early May.