Flowering dogwood

Cornus florida
Family: Cornaceae

Natural Historycommon persimmon
Leaves, bracts, and flowers of flowering dogwood
Photo credit: USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive,
USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org

The small and graceful flowering dogwood is a popular flowering ornamental of the Cornaceae family. It grows from extreme southwestern Maine to eastern Kansas, south to eastern Texas and Florida. You can find flowering dogwood trees in well-drained, light upland soils to deep, moist soils along streams and lower slopes. It grows near or under many taller trees including some of the hickories, oaks, tulip tree, pines, red maple, and American beech. It also occurs with smaller trees and shrubs such as redbud and hawthorns.

Flowering dogwood is fast growing, short-lived and bears clusters of showy, white to pinkish-white flowers appearing before leaves unfold in thespring. Flowering is followed by red, berry-like fruits that are valuable to wildlife. Many species of songbirds, small mammals, squirrels, and raccoons are attracted to the fruits in autumn. Whitetail deer browse the leaves and twigs, especially enjoying new sprout growth. The white wood is hard, tough, close-grained, and good for making tool handles.

Habitat & Range

Flowering dogwood grows in the well-drained, light upland soils to deep, moist soils along streams and lower slopes.

Wildlife Use

Human Use

Historically, the wood was valuable for weaving implements. pulleys, spools, and wheel hubs.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Flowering dogwood is a small tree that reaches heights of 30' to 40'.
Bark: The grayish-brown bark is thick and rough. It is fissured into small, thin, angular scales that appear as small, pebbly blocks.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, oppositely arranged, deciduous, and 4" to 6" long by 2" to 3" wide. The ovate shaped leaves usually have slightly fuzzy, dark green upper surfaces while the underneath surface is paler and hairy. The leaf base is acute and the tip is pointed. The leaf margin is smooth.
Flowers: The flowers are tiny and have 4 large white, occasionally pink, petal-like bracts.
Fruit: The fruit is a ½" long, glossy bright red, ellipsoid drupe.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:
  • The leaf shape is similar to that of common persimmon, but those leaves have an alternate arrangement, while the leaves of the dogwood are opposite.
  • The only other trees on our list with opposite, simple leaves are the maples (Florida, red, and silver) but all three of those have lobed leaves with palmate venation.

 

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