Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood – Cornus florida

color photograph of Flowering Dogwood - Cornus floridaTwo lovely ‘Cloud 9’ Dogwoods light up a forest glade

Plants in the genus Cornus are commonly called dogwoods. Most are deciduous trees or shrubs but a few are evergreen. Dogwoods are well-known native plants throughout the eastern U.S. and are among the first trees to flower in springtime.

The composition of the family Cornaceae has been a matter of much controversy among taxonomists for many years. Many sources, i.e. Flora of China treats the family as consisting of a single genus, Cornus, [1] while others include 17 or more genera. Cornus L. sensu lato consists of 55 species that are mostly trees and shrubs and rarely perennial herbs with woody rhizomes [2].

color photo of Flowering Dogwood blossoms

The fleshy fruits of dogwoods are very valuable to wildlife, particularly in the Northeast. The fruit ripens in late summer, and besides being available through the fall, some of the berries may persist on the plants into the winter months.

Flowering Dogwood in bloom

The hard wood of several species of Cornus is used for making farming tools. The fruit of some species is used for food or as a source of industrial oil. Cornus mas is cultivated in China for medicinal uses. Many species are widely cultivated as ornamentals, e.g., C. alba, C. canadensis, C. controversa, C. florida Linnaeus, C. kousa, C. mas, C. nuttallii Audubon, and C. stolonifera. [1]


Wildlife browse the twigs, foliage, and fruits. Birds known to eat the fruit include: wood ducks, eastern bluebirds, cardinals, catbirds, longtailed chats, crows, purple finches, yellow-shafted flickers, crested flycatchers, grosbeaks, kingbirds, American magpies, mockingbirds, crested mynah birds, orioles, robins, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, European starlings, tree swallows, scarlet tanagers, brown thrashers, thrushes, vireos, pine warblers, cedar waxwings, and woodpeckers.  The shrubs provide excellent nesting habitat for songbirds [3].

1. Xiang Qiuyun (Jenny Xiang); David E. Boufford, Flora of China 14: 206–221. 2005 “Cornaceae”
2. Chuanzhu Fan and Jenny Qui-Yun Xiang, American Journal of Botany, Phylogenetics Within Cornus

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