Cornaceae - Dogwood Family
Flowering dogwood is a small deciduous tree (one that loses its leaves seasonally) that is native to North America. It is primarily found in the eastern United States, flourishing from Massachusetts to Michigan, as well as in parts of central Florida and eastern Texas.1 Its range extends into Canada and Mexico. This tree averages 15 ft tall with a canopy 15-20 ft across; its leaves are 3-6 inches long.2
Flowering dogwood is an understory tree; it grows beneath much taller trees and provides shade for other plants and animals. This tree is easily recognized by its short trunk covered by small plates of bark, and many spreading, 'opposite' branches with green leaves that turn bright red in the fall.3 Dogwood fruits are shiny red drupes (a fleshy fruit with a single seed) that primarily last from September-December and can grow up to 0.5 inches long. The fruits are eaten by many mammals and birds alike, including the northern cardinal, white-tailed deer, eastern cottontail rabbit, American robin, wild turkey, raccoon, and red fox.3 These animals consume and disperse the seeds.
This tree heavily depends upon bees, butterflies, and beetles for pollination.2 Besides providing food for animals, this tree has also been used to produce inks, dyes, golf club heads, and mallets. The ideal environment for dogwoods to thrive is one that is both moist and shady, and in soil that is both acidic and moist and far from intense, direct heat. Flowering dogwood should receive water weekly, and kept away from lawn mowers and other hazards that may damage its fragile bark.
References and Useful Websites:
1 Natural Resources Conservation Service - U. S. Department of Agriculture
3 Fairfax County Public Schools - Ecology Pages
This page was prepared by Caroline Mcnally, Biology 102, Fall 2011