Monday, December 13, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Dogwood

Some of us think of Dogwood in the early spring as their bracts begin to open to show its flower. The bracts get larger and turn white..

...or pink or red.

The sight of the dappled white bracts in the landscape is classic Cornus florida. Whether it is through the leaves ---

or out in the open---

Nothing says spring like the dogwood in bloom.

Not sure whether your dogwood will bloom in the spring? Check out the buds for its flowers in the fall.

The dogwood is a native tree to the eastern United States, zones 5-9. It is considered an understory tree, one that likes dappled sunlight. That being said, it can handle full sun. While it is said more shade in the south, I can tell you some of the dogwood I see in Greenwood, South Carolina are in full sun and seem to be doing well. It likes moist, fertile, well drained soils.

Wildlife benefits from the dogwood's berries. Many birds and squirrels enjoy the fruits. The references say propagation can be done by greenwood cuttings in spring, hardwood cuttings in summer, or seed. We have many seedlings throughout our woods.

The leaves are opposite, simple leaves which turn the most glorious red to purple-red in the fall. They are oval to ovate about 3- 6 inches long and half that wide. The leaves appear after the bracts open with the Cornus florida. Cornus kousa, leaves are first then the bracts open.

 In addition to the beautiful foliage in the fall, the bright red berries often make the tree appear to still have its red leaves. 

The wood is fine grained and very hard. There are many uses for the dogwood timber; tool handles, shuttles, wheel cogs, pulleys, and jeweler's blocks to name just a few.

The bark on mature trees is dark and is deeply ridged in small blocks, much like an alligator's skin.

The tree can grow up to 30 feet tall. The shape is rounded with a flattened top, branching horizontally.
If the tree is stressed it is more suseptible to disease.  In recent years Dogwood Blight has spread throughout most of the range of the dogwood.  It is an anthracnose disease that thrives in cool, moist weather.  This disease attacks the leaves, eventually killing the tree.

There are different kinds of Cornus, Cornus florida, the native dogwood, Cornus kousa -a Japanese dogwood that blooms about 2-3 weeks later than C. florida and blooms after the leaves have emerged.  There is an evergreen dogwood that I find most incredible--Cornus angustata 'Empress of China'-- a beautiful tree that in milder climates is evergreen.  The bracts are impressive.
Here is one outstanding tree in the Virginia State Arboretum at Blandy. I believe this is 'Empress of China' but I can't find my notes from the trip right now.

You may remember I am big on foliage that turns red in the fall.  That is part of the reason that I am profiling this tree at this time of year.  The other reason is that the Abbeville Cooperative Extension office sells trees in the late fall, delivery is tomorrow. I bought 3 red dogwoods, 3 redbud, and 2 pecan trees. I look forward to some spring color!!

As always here are my references--US Forestry Service

Next Tuesday-- the tree -Persian Ironwood

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. I love Dogwood! The fall color is as spectacular as the flowers and the beautiful form in the winter...

  2. Those bracts are beautiful - can't wait to see your garden in Spring! Happy tree planting.

  3. My neighbor has some of these beautiful trees. I need to add one or two to my own yard. Great choices you made, keep us updated. :)

  4. The heat must be just a little too intense for dogwoods here. Funny that the species name for the native one is "florida." When we first moved here, I so badly wanted to plant a few dogwoods for spring bloom, and I was shocked that I couldn't order them from out of state (Wayside has always been one of my favorite sources). I wonder if they pose some kind of threat to the Florida citrus crop?

  5. The dogwoods were simply gorgeous this fall! Such deep reds they stand out so well. I love them! The Florida ones don't do well for me in my garden but I enjoy them all around.

  6. Dogwoods are beautiful! You always give such great information on trees, Janet!

  7. You've made me even more excited about warm weather to come... is it as cold in Greenwood as it is in Greenville? Great dogwood photos!

  8. Your photos really capture the grace and beauty of dogwoods. I especially love the layered look of our native tree. Truly a 4 season beauty.

  9. I planted two bareroot dogwoods 25 years ago as understory. In the dappled shade they are more openly branched and just look graceful though they don't bloom as heavy as those in more sun. The red leaves in the fall rival the spring flowers.

  10. Such a beautiful tree--I'm thinking of spring already! Glad to know the snow hasn't reached your area, Janet; planting trees right now sounds wonderful.

  11. I'm glad to see you are back on-line with your tree posts. I have a new Cornus for you to investigate, Empress of China. As my former boss would say "it's a winner".

  12. Garden Sense, thanks! I was thrilled with the fall color this year on the dogwoods.

    Janet, I look forward to the spring blooms as well.

    Racquel, I will keep you updated!

    Walk2write, I find that funny as well, Cornus florida should do well in florida! The citrus crop needs to be protected I suppose.

    Tina, I so look forward to the spring blooms. Will be tagging some of the dogwoods on neighboring property.

    Tatyana, thanks, I am trying to get more tree posts out.

    Eliza, We are about the same as Greenville....some weather patterns hit you and not us, but not many.

    Sweetbay, thanks! I love the dogwoods. It IS a 4 season treat.

    Gene, I love them in the dappled barerooted ones were really nice. Hope they do well.

    Rose, We haven't had any snow yet, though just an hour north they have. Going to be a wild winter.

    Les, Empress of China IS a winner to be sure. I will take some photos of John Elsley's tree this spring.

  13. It's so funny I was looking at images of the evergreen cornus and found one on your website I liked. I have this tree growing in my garden and it is doing fabulous. I can't wait until it gets bigger and blooms.


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