Flowering Dogwood

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Our tree (Cornus florida) is the flowering dogwood. Flowering dogwoods are small deciduous trees; while our tree is only 9 feet tall today, flowering dogwood trees grow to 33 feet high and are often wider than they are tall when mature. The trunk diameter will grow up to one foot. Flowering dogwoods are native to eastern North America and northern Mexico. They are beautiful trees -- with flowers in the spring, beautiful leaves in the summer, and red fruit and foliage in the fall. Our tree, in particular, is the best tree in the nation!!
Mary Ben Apatoff and Jameel Alausa
Collected Data
Date of tree entry: 
2.74 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.10 m

There are too many multiple trunks to accurately measure the DBH, so this is just an estimate
The bark of the flowering dogwood is dark brown, somewhat smooth, and aromatic. As the tree grows older, the bark will get rougher. The bark will also become extremely hard and shock-resistant. Thus, the bark is used for making weaving shuttles, spools, small pulleys, mallet heads, gold club heads, jeweler's blocks, and more. Historically, people have used the bark to treat malaria. The root bark also can be used to make a scarlet dye. Our tree's bark is beautiful AND practical!
Twigs & branches
The twigs and branches of our flowering dogwood are thin (less than a centimeter in diameter) and plentiful. The color of the branches is a dark brown, and flower buds bloom from the branches at several bud locations per branch. The twigs are also food for wildlife such as deer, rabbits, and birds.
The leaves of our flowering dogwood are not yet visible on the tree, but will come out in the summertime! The leaves will be green, but in the fall, the leaves turn bright red! In general, leaves of the flowering dogwood are elliptical or egg-shaped and are short-stalked, hairless, three to six inches long, and have wavy edges. The leaves are oppositely arranged (arranged in opposing pairs along a twig), and the veins of the leaves are laterally paired. The leaves appear untoothed, yet under a microscope, small teeth can be seen along the edges of the leaves.
Reproductive Structures
Flowering dogwoods have small, light-yellow/white flowers that arise in clusters in the spring before leaves appear. Four white, petal-like "bracts" surround the clusters. The bracts combine to resemble "flower-looking structures" that are 5 to 10 cm across. Bracts are usually white, though humans have bred certain trees that bloom in different colors such as pink, red, and salmon. When the bracts open they are beautiful and have a nice fragrance. Up to 20 flowers can be held within one set of the four bracts. The spectacular display and fragrance of dogwoods along with the bright red drupes attract insects, birds, and mammals. Insects pollinate the flowers; birds and mammals distribute the seeds of the drupes. Flowering dogwoods are bisexual; they contain both male and female reproductive organs.
The Flowering Dogwood fruit is a type of drupe (i.e. they have a pit inside each fruit)! The fruits are elliptical-shaped, shiny red, and waxy on the outside. Around six or seven drupes form together in a cluster from the mature flower ovaries. The fruit grows to a half-inch to an inch long. The fruit comes out in the fall -- ripens in September and October and persists until mid-December -- so we have not seen fruits yet on our tree. When the fruits ripen, birds either eat them or they will fall to the ground and animals will eat them. (Image source: https://www.surroundslandscaping.com/garden-design-northern-virginia-flowering-trees/dogwood-cornus-florida-fruit/)
  • Winter - Image of our tree
  • Spring - Image of our tree
  • Summer - Source: https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/cornus-florida
  • Fall - Source: https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/cornus-florida
Flowering dogwoods live in eastern deciduous forests (forests with trees that lose their leaves in autumn) in the understory of lower and middle slopes. They grow best in fertile, moist soil in areas with adequate shade; however they can also grow in drier habitats. The range of the flowering dogwood habitat extends from southwestern Maine to New York, southern Ontario, central Michigan, central Illinois, and central Missouri.
Origin, history, and uses: 
Flowering dogwoods are a type of flowering tree that belongs to the family Cornaceae. They are native to the east side of North America, from eastern Canada to eastern North America to eastern Mexico. Flowering dogwoods (Cornus Florida) are named for the beautiful spring flowers. “Cornus” derives from the word cornu which means “horn”, referring to the hardwood of the dogwood; “Florida” is derived from the Latin word “flos”, which means “flowery”, referring to their notable, pretty flowers. Other common names for dogwood trees include boxwood and cornel. In Christian tradition, the cross Jesus Christ was crucified on was made from the wood of a flowering dogwood. God was angered by this and transformed the formerly tall dogwood tree into a small tree to prevent future misuse of the wood.
People can eat dogwood fruit both fresh and in products such as jam and wine. As mentioned in the “Bark” section, the humans use the wood of dogwood to manufacture roller skates, tool handles, spools, spindles, mallet heads, golf club heads, and more. Humans also use the bark of dogwood in the treatment of malaria, as well as aches and fevers. In the past, humans used branches of dogwood that were free of bark to make toothbrushes.
Phenology studies periodic events and the development of our plant (the flowering dogwood) through the seasons. The phenology of our plant is as follows: Leaf phases: 1. Breaking leaf buds: Clusters of leaf buds can be seen in early spring (late February and early March). Leaf buds are "breaking" once green leaf tips are visible at the end of the bud. 2. Unfolded leaves: In late March and early April, leaves of dogwoods begin unfolding. A "unfolded" leaf is one that has has emerged from the breaking bud. 3. Increasing leaf size: Throughout April and early May, most leaves on dogwoods are still growing. Leaves grow at the ends of elongating stems. 4. Color change and leaf falling: The flowering dogwood's leaves turn red. Leaves drop gradually across mid to late fall. Flower phases: 1. Flowers bud: Fresh flowers or flower buds are visible. 2. Open flowers: By the end of spring, fresh flowers are visible. Often, the reproductive parts are visible. For the flowering dogwood, we ignore the four bracts and instead look at the flowers within the bracts. Fruit phases: 1. Fruit Production and ripening: During late summer and early fall, dogwoods start to produce red drupes. 2. Fruit drop: fruits drop or are consumed by birds
Other information of interest: 

For more information on the Flowering Dogwood, check out: https://www.uky.edu/hort/Flowering-Dogwood

Media and Arts

Ode to the Flowering Dogwood:

Flowering Dogwood, wow I’d like more of ya.

Your scientific name is Cornus Florida.

Your leaves are green, simple, and untoothed.

Your fruits have a pit, that means they are drupe.

As you grow, your smooth bark will turn rough.

We can use your bark to build a lot of stuff.

While today you stand somewhat small.

You will grow from nine to thirty-three feet tall.

Lovely tree, you are beautiful and good

Lovely tree, the Flowering Dogwood. (x2)

In the spring, no leaves just buds instead

Summer and fall, leaves change from green to red

Every season, you’re the opposite of hideous

Winter-time, leaves shed since you’re deciduous

Your tree root bark is used to make a scarlet dye.

Your twigs are plentiful, slender, and spry.

So many flower buds from all your bud locations.

To visit you by Yale Health is our destination.

Lovely tree, you are beautiful and good

Lovely tree, the Flowering Dogwood. (x2)

Your bark is shock resistant.

Your beauty is quite consistent.

In America you are existent.

We love you, we’re insistent.

Lovely tree, you are beautiful and good

Lovely tree, the Flowering Dogwood. (x2)