What is a Flowering Dogwood Tree? - Home Stratosphere

What is a Flowering Dogwood Tree?

Learn more about the beautiful flowering dogwood tree, how it differs from other types, how it reproduces, where it usually grows and a few FAQs answered.

This is a close look at a garden that has a blooming flowering dogwood tree with tulips.

We love trees! We are obsessed with them! This is the last member of the deciduous variety in our article series; 101 Types of Trees. We’re moving onto evergreen trees next, so head on over to check out what we have learned about our woody neighbors!

Related: Acacia Flowers | Berry Flowers | Spring Flowers

Cornus Florida

Flowering dogwoods are part of the family Cornaceae which consists of many varying species. Ranging from deciduous to evergreen, and tall tree to small shrubs, most members are known for their very showy spring foliage.

The flowering dogwood is best known for its beautiful explosion of spring flowers. Part of the genus Cornus comes with several nicknames. The most common being; American dogwood, Florida dogwood, Indian arrowwood, Cornelian tree, white cornel, white dogwood, false boxwood, and a pink dogwood tree.

This tree is a rather short-lived tree, usually tapping out at around 80 years. They grow somewhat quickly and usually hover around being a small tree of 10 meters.

They are planted for ornamental purposes and are a common understory tree on the eastern side of North America. Flowering dogwoods are the state tree for both Virginia and Missouri, and the state flower of North Carolina!

What does Flowering Dogwood Trees Look Like?

This is a close look at the branches and foliage of a flowering dogwood tree.

Root System

Dogwood trees have interesting root systems, in that they have 3 separate depths of roots. One being very shallow and wide-spreading and lingering 10 inches beneath the soil, the next reaching half a meter, and the last one reaching a full meter in the earth.

This makes them incredibly difficult to transplant, and some may even consider these roots as being invasive because of how established they are in the soil. They develop these root systems in order to adapt to changes in precipitation, as they are water-loving trees.

Dimensions

Most flowering dogwood trees will grow to be under 10 meters tall. Trunks are usually 11 inches in diameter. Older trees will have wide-spreading crowns that exceed their height.

Growth Pattern

When they are completely mature, their crowns will usually be more expansive than the trunk is tall. The crown possesses completely horizontal branching for the majority of the growth, that grows into a rounded crown.

Bark

When it comes to flowering dogwoods, the bark of a young tree will be light gray/brown and very lightly textured. The bark of an old tree will be darker in color and will have developed shallow fissures that create small angled ridges. These ridges peel away in scaly pieces.

Foliage

This is a close look at the branches and foliage of the flowering dogwood tree.

Flowering dogwood leaves are oppositely arranged on a stem, are simple, and ovate in shape. They will usually range between being 2 and 5 inches long, and they have a very fine-toothed margin that can only be seen with a magnifying glass.

A flowering dogwood leaf is a light green in its youth, will develop into a glossy deep green, and will turn a striking red/brown color in autumn before it falls off.

How do Flowering Dogwood Trees Reproduce?

Flowers

This is a close look at the bright white flower of a flowering dogwood tree.

Dogwood trees are monoecious, meaning that they possess both male flowers and female flowers on the same tree. However, they are not capable of self-pollinating. Flowers emerge in early April in more southern regions, and in early May in northern regions. Regions that are high in altitude, will emerge in late spring.

Flowering dogwood flower begins its life as being inconspicuous. Once they mature, they emerge as dense clusters with about 20 flowers in each cluster. A flower head is surrounded by 4 large petals, which can be either white, pink, or light red. We say petals, but these are actually bracts, which are plant parts dedicated to reproduction.

Fruit

This is a close look at the bright red fruit of the flowering dogwood tree.

Once a dogwood tree is successfully pollinated, either through wind pollination or insect pollination, it will produce fruit in the form of drupes. These red fruit drupes grow in clusters of 3-10, which ripen in late autumn.

A dogwood fruit is bright red in maturity, and very rarely yellow with charming yellow streaks. They are very popular among bird species, which is important for seed distribution. They are “edible” per se but do not taste good in the slightest for humans, as they are very very sour.

What are Some Other Types of Dogwood Tree?

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus Kousa)

This is a look at a kousa dogwood tree with white flowers by the red brick house.

Sometimes referred to as the Chinese dogwood, Japanese dogwood, or Korean dogwood, this tree is a small dogwood variety that is native to eastern Asia. They are slowly growing, and are planted primarily as ornamental trees as they are very showy.

Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus Alternifolia)

This is a close look at a medium-sized pagoda dogwood.

Sometimes referred to as the green osier, or the alternate-leaved dogwood, this tree is a small shrub variety that is native to North America. Though their leaves aren’t as impressive as other species, they have a very unique growth pattern with horizontal layers and a very flat crown.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus Mas)

A cornelian cherry dogwood growing by the driveway.

This tree is either a medium-sized shrub or a small tree variety of dogwood. They are native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia and are known for their winter yellow flowers. They also produce fruit that becomes very tasteful when cooked, and they are often made into jams. In certain countries, Cornelian cherry dogwood fruit is also used for distilling vodka.

Mountain Dogwood (Cornus Nuttallii)

This is a close look at the foliage and flowers of a mountain dogwood tree.

Sometimes referred to as the pacific dogwood, is a small tree that is native to western North America, mainly in British Columbia and California. The flower that this tree produces is actually the provincial flower of British Columbia.

Giant Dogwood (Cornus Controversa)

This is a close look at a giant dogwood tree.

Sometimes referred to as the wedding cake tree, is a small tree that is native to China, Korea, the Himalayas, and Japan. The name comes from their spectacularly striking and showy white flowers, and the tree is only planted ornamentally.

Gray Dogwood (Cornus Racemose)

A gray dogwood shrub growing by the brick walkway.

Sometimes referred to as the panicle dogwood, is a shrubby plant that is native to Canada and northeastern America. They grow as short thickets that still possess lovely flowers, and are only planted ornamentally.

What Pests Affect Dogwood Trees?

This is a close look at a house garden with flowering dogwood trees.

Flowering dogwoods are affected by many pests, and unfortunately, they have become a serious enough issue that the tree is classified as being endangered in Ontario, and is now a protected tree in that province.

Dogwood Anthracnose

Dogwood anthracnose is a foliar disease that is caused by the fungus discula destructiva. Anthracnose is a leaf spot infection, where they develop large tan-colored blotches that eventually turn purple. The infection will spread through to the rest of the tree and eventually kill it.

Dogwood Borer

Though dogwood borers won’t immediately kill a tree, they will eventually if the problem is not dealt with. The danger comes from the larvae of the plant borer. They will burrow into burr-knots at the base of the tree and in healed bark wounds.

Once a large population is developed, the bark will start to appear as being moist and it will start falling off. This is dangerous for the tree because it exposes vulnerable parts of its cambium, which can then be infected by other species.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that starts from trees that have very crowded foliage, which results in either poor air circulation or constantly wet leaves. Powdery mildew starts out as yellow leaf spots, which then covers the entire leaf, preventing it from photosynthesizing.

Powdery mildew is a very common issue amongst many types of trees and is relatively easily dealt with.

Where do Flowering Dogwood Trees Grow?

A row of flowering dogwood trees by the white fence.

The flowering dogwood tree is native to eastern North America and northern parts of Mexico as well. Their endemic population originated from the southern coastal part of Maine towards northern Florida. From there, their growing range-extended towards Mississippi and Georgia. There are small groves in Canada as well.

The best growth usually occurs in the most southern regions and can grow to much taller heights in those areas. They are commonly found on dry ridges and along the edge of a forest. Their USDA hardiness growing zone is 5 through 9.

What are the Growing Conditions of Flowering Dogwoods?

Soil

Flowering dogwood trees prefer to grow in soil that is very well-drained and fertile. The soil should be moist, acidic, and not too packed down. A perfect pH level for this tree is 6-7.

Water

These trees love water. They prefer to have very hot and humid summer weather, and winters that have lots of precipitation. They do not perform well at all in dry heat.

Sun Exposure

The ideal amount of sunshine for a flowering dogwood would have morning sun, and afternoon shade. This way, the tree still gets sunlight, but at the coolest part of the day, so it doesn’t get scorched by the hot afternoon sun.

How are Flowering Dogwood Trees Used?

Wood

Flowering dogwood wood is light in color, dense, and sturdy. This wood has been used to manufacture tool handles, butcher blocks, mallets, wooden rakes, and golf club heads. These items indicate that this wood is very shock-resistant and tough.

Ornamental

This is a close look at a mature flowering dogwood tree.

This flowering tree is an extremely popular choice for cultivar enthusiasts. The flower buds are beautiful, the flowers are beautiful, and they are unparalleled in terms of dogwood tree care.

It is no secret that this tree is mainly planted as an ornamental tree. Not only their attractive leaves, but their charming shape, and red berries make them a rather famous tree.

Natural Dye

Traditionally, dogwood bark has been used in order to obtain natural pigment to create natural dyes. This particular dogwood species is responsible for a very deep red scarlet color, which has also been used in the past as ink.

Medicinal

It is said that the story behind where the dogwood tree got its name, is from its medicinal purposes. The bark is processed in order to make a salve, which historically was used to treat dogs with mange, which is a very uncomfortable skin condition.

The bark and roots of the tree were also collected and processed as a substitute for quinine, which is the medication that is used to treat malaria.

Wildlife

A close look at a bird's nest up in the dogwood tree.

The most important feature for wildlife is the dogwood berry. Not only are they an important food source for many bird species, the birds in turn do a wonderful job of distributing seedlings, which will then germinate in many different areas.

Flowers, twigs, berries, and leaves, are all browsed upon by small mammals and large mammals alike.

The tree also serves as a larval host plant for many moth species, including; the lo moth, cecropia moth, spring azure moths, diamondback epinotia moth, rosaceous leaf roller moth, stinging rose moth, grand arches moth, and many more.

FAQs

Are dogwood tree roots invasive?

Dogwood trees have interesting root systems, in that they have 3 separate depths of roots. One being very shallow and wide spreading and lingering 10 inches beneath the soil, the next reaching half a meter, and the last one reaching a full meter in the earth.

This makes them incredibly difficult to transplant, and some may even consider these roots as being invasive because of how established they are in the soil. They develop these root systems in order to adapt to changes in precipitation, as they are water-loving trees.

Are flowering dogwood tree berries edible?

Many animals like to eat the berries of the flowering dogwood tree, and they are an important source of food for forest-dwelling creatures.

Though the berries are not toxic, they are incredibly sour to humans and therefore are not commonly eaten. There are other species of dogwood that grow much more enjoyable fruit.

Are dogwood trees evergreen?

There are some species of dogwood trees that are evergreen, and there are some that are deciduous. The cornaceae family has over 500 species, and they are vary greatly.

Are dogwood trees deer resistant?

Unfortunately, no. There are many features of the flowering dogwood tree that deer find nearly irresistible.

Can a dogwood tree be pruned?

Dogwood trees tend to grow leaves that are very close together, and this can cause issues if they experience a lot of rain. Leaves won’t be properly aerated and can become vulnerable to powdery mildew.

It is best to prune a dogwood tree to make sure that it has pockets of light and air, and the crown isn’t too densely grown. Additionally, it is good to prune branches that appear as being sick or growing in an awkward direction and interfering with other branch growth.

Can you bonsai a dogwood tree?

In Japan, dogwood species are incredible for the art of bonsai. They are an extremely popular choice because they are easy to care for, and have absolutely stunning flowers every spring.

When it comes to bonsai, you can grow pretty much any tree into a miniature size, as long as it begins its life in a pot and doesn’t have the chance to develop roots in a larger place.

How tall do flowering dogwood trees get?

Flowering dogwood trees are small trees, and will only grow to be around 10 meters tall in their lifetime.

How long do dogwood trees live?

Dogwood trees are rather short-lived trees, and usually have a life expectancy of 80 years, though this has been exceeded if they are able to grow in the absolute best conditions.

How quickly do flowering dogwood trees grow?

Flowering dogwood trees grow quite quickly, at over 12 inches in a year. However, due to their short size, this won’t take a very long time!

What is the spiritual significance of the dogwood tree?

Much like all other themes of spring, the dogwood tree signifies life and rebirth. This tree is special because of its marvelous and enchanting spring flowers that just explode all over the tree.

The white color of the flowers represents purity and innocence, and they also represent beauty, joy, and overall excitement for life.

When do dogwood trees bloom?

Dogwood trees will bloom in the early spring.

How did the dogwood tree get its name?

The dogwood tree got its name because of a medicinal purpose! Properties in dogwood bark was historically used in order to treat dogs with mange, which is a horrible skin disease. The tree got its name because that was its primary purpose, to treat dogs, and so “dogwood” came to be.

How deep are dogwood tree roots?

Dogwood trees have interesting root systems, in that they have 3 separate depths of roots. One being very shallow and wide spreading and lingering 10 inches beneath the soil, the next reaching half a meter, and the last one reaching a full meter in the earth.

This makes them incredibly difficult to transplant, and some may even consider these roots as being invasive because of how established they are in the soil. They develop these root systems in order to adapt to changes in precipitation, as they are water-loving trees.

Are flowering dogwood trees messy?

All deciduous trees may be considered as messy to some people. This is because they will not only drop their leaves in the fall, but they will also drop their flowers and fruits later on in the year as well.

Though it may be a nuisance to landscapers, there are few people who would complain about the majestic dogwood flowers gently floating to the ground.

Can dogwood trees grow in clay soil?

Dogwood trees need to grow in soil that is well drained and moist. Clay soil tends to be way too packed and dense to support this kind of tree.

Will a white dogwood tree enter dormancy?

Some dogwoods are deciduous. This means that in order to prepare for the cold winter months, they will drop all of their leaves and go into dormancy.

They do this because there is not enough sunlight on winter days for them to get enough energy to photosynthesize and spread enough energy in order to grow. They will go into dormancy for the winter and resume their growth as soon as spring hits and they develop their spring foliage.

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