Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Indigenous to the Eastern United States, the Flowering Dogwood is often considered our finest native flowering tree.  Commonly grown in USDA Zones 4-9, it performs best where summers are not too hot.

Being a forest fringe tree, it prefers a humus-rich, slightly acid soil with high shade.  When planted in full sun as a lawn tree, supplemental water in times of drought and protection from lawn mowers is imperative.  If environmental stresses become too great, borers and anthracnose will lead to the decline and death of the tree.

Flowering Dogwoods can grow to 40 feet, but usually only attain a height of 25 feet and a spread just as wide.  The form can be vase-shaped, rounded, umbrella like or flat topped and combined with its alligator skin bark, gives a unique winter habit.  Fall leaf color is a crimson to purple enhanced by bright red clusters of berries that are a favorite food of wildlife.

The famous showy flowers are not actually flowers at all, but 4 leaf bracts.  The true flower is a small greenish yellow area in the center of the white, pink or red bracts.  Emerging in April or May, the flowering display looks particularly beautiful because it occurs before the leaves have opened.  The pink varieties such as “Rubra” or “Cherokee Chief” have been cultivated since 1731 and are commonly planted in clusters with white varieties like “Cloud Nine”