Family Cornaceae – Dogwoods

Family Cornaceae – Dogwoods

The Dogwoods are some of our most familiar and beloved ornamental trees. Most of our featured trees reside at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.

'Golden shadows' Pagoda Dogwood‘Golden shadows’ Pagoda Dogwood is a standout in shaded areas

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].

The USDA Plants Database includes Cornus, Aucuba, Campotheca, and Nyssa (tupelo) genera in the family [3].

'Cloud 9' dogwood flowersCornus florida ‘Cloud 9’ dogwood flowers

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 Linnaeus is cultivated in China for medicinal uses. Many species are widely cultivated as ornamentals.

Fruit a drupaceous berry, white, blue, red, or black. Berries distinct or fused into a fleshy syncarpous compound fruit; stone of fruit bony [1]. Dogwood berries provide food for many animals, primarily birds.

Black / Sour Gum foliageBlack / Sour Gum Nyssa sylvatica

Red Osier Dogwood habit

Red Osier Dogwood – Cornus sericea

Black / Sour Gum Tree – Nyssa sylvatica

Cloud 9 Flowering Dogwood – Cornus florida ‘Cloud 9’

Cornelian Cherry – Cornus mas

Dogwood Twig Borer Beetle – Oberea tripunctata

Dwarf Dogwood – Cornus pumila

Flowering Dogwood – Cornus florida


  1. Xiang Qiuyun (Jenny Xiang); David E. Boufford, Flora of China 14: 20 221. 2005 “Cornaceae”
  2. Chuanzhu Fan and Jenny Qui-Yun Xiang, Journal of Botany, “Phylogenetic Relationships Within Cornus

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