Tree 5 - 10 m tall, trunk 15 - 30 cm in diameter Leaves: opposite, clustered near end of stem, dark green above, paler beneath, 7 - 12 cm long, 5 - 8 cm wide, elliptic to egg-shaped with arching (arcuate) veins, non-toothed or wavy-toothed, sometimes hairy above, often hairy along veins beneath. Leaves turn red to reddish purple in fall. Flowers: borne at ends of stems in tight clusters, yellowish green. Four showy, white to pinkish, petal-like bracts to 5 cm long surround the flowers. Fruit: fleshy with one or two center seeds (drupe), in clusters of three to six, shiny red, 1 - 1.5 cm long, egg-shaped. Bark: reddish to blackish brown, broken into squared plates. Twigs: changing from yellowish green with white hairs to smooth and light brown or reddish gray, arching upward at the tips. Buds: green to red, tiny, narrow, hairy. Flower buds are stalked, grayish, flattened spherical, and silky. Form: flat-topped, wide-spreading, with a short crooked trunk that divides close to the ground.
Similar species: Cornus florida has the arching leaf venation characteristic of the genus. It is easily distinguished from other dogwoods because it is a small tree that has four large petal-like bracts surrounding the flower clusters and tight clusters of red fruit.
Flowering: late April to early June
Habitat and ecology: An understory tree frequently found in mesic woods of the eastern Chicago Region.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: This species is a commonly planted ornamental tree with many cultivars available, including some with pink or red flower bracts. The wood is used for making tool handles, bobbin heads, weaving shuttles, mallet heads, and spools. Extracts made from the bark and flowers were once treatments for fever, jaundice, cholera, and malaria. The leaves decompose quickly, are high in calcium and enrich the soil efficiently.
Etymology: Cornus comes from the Latin word, cornu, meaning horn, referring to its hard wood. Florida comes from the Latin word for flowering, referring to its large flowers.
Author: The Morton Arboretum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Frequent to common in dry woods throughout the state except in the northwestern part where it is absent from the sandy black oak woods. The largest tree I have seen was in Warrick County, which had a clear bole of 10 feet and measured 40 inches in circumference at four and a half feet above the ground.
Indiana Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 4
Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
Deam (1932): Wood hard, heavy, strong, close-grained, and taking a high polish. The Indians made a scarlet dye from the roots. It was used much by the pioneers for wedges, mallets, and handles for tools. The trees are so small that they do not produce much wood. The present supply is used principally for shuttles, golfheads, brush blocks, engraver's blocks, etc.
The mature fruit is much relished by squirrels and birds. The tree is quite conspicuous in the flowering season, and when the fruit is maturing. These features recommend it for ornamental planting, and it is used to some extent. The tree has a flat crown, and endures shade well. It is very difficult to transplant, and when transplanting the tree, if possible, some earth, taken from under a live dogwood tree, should be used to fill in the hole where it is planted.
Widely branched small tree (or large shrub) to 10 m, the bark becoming closely and deeply checked; lvs ovate to elliptic or obovate, mostly 6-10 cm and half as wide, abruptly acuminate, pale beneath, strigillose on both sides; bracts 4, white (pink), obcordate, notched at the tip, 3-6 cm; fls yellowish, 20-30 in the cluster; fr red, ellipsoid, 10-15 mm; 2n=22. Woods; Me. to s. Ont., Mich., Ill., Mo., and Okla., s. to Fla. and ne. Mex. May, June, before the lvs are fully grown. (Cynoxylon f.)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.