Key identifying features.. Four-point
blossoms in April or May, tinged red at the edges with a crown in the middle.
Common name.. Dogwood
Scientific name.. Cornus florida
Mature height.. 15 to 30 feet
Mature spread.. 15 to 20 feet
Form.. Layered, spreading crown, valued
as an ornamental tree.
Fruit.. Egg-shaped red berries persist
after the leaves fall, attracting birds and squirrels.
Flowers.. Snow white flower bracts unfold
from the conspicuous winter flower buds in April or May before the leaves emerge.
Foliage.. Deciduous; green in summer,
silvery on the undersides; wine red in fall, though some years, the color is a mixture of yellows, oranges and reds. Leaves
are opposite, simple, and tend to scorch and curl in late summer heat and drought.
Growth rate.. Moderate (12 to 18 inches
per year). (See the growth chart for pictures.)
Culture.. This tree requires evenly moist
but well-drained, acidic soil in partial sun to thrive. Dogwoods are especially prone to a disease known as anthracnose. See
my anthracnose journal for more information.
Best time to prune.. In spring, just
after the blossoms have fallen.
Legend.. The delicate four-point blossom
represents Jesus' suffering on the cross. Four white petals form a cross shape and surround the crown of thorns in the middle,
tinged red to symbolize the blood of Christ. At the petal tips are red points, symbolizing blood from the nails that held
Jesus' hands and feet. Blossoming at Easter, the flowers remind the faithful of Jesus' death and resurrected life.
Julie's Comments.. (June
2004) I love this tree because it provides a beautiful barrier between my house and the house next door as viewed from the
dining room windows downstairs and the bedroom window upstairs. Two years in a row, the tree did not produce many flowers,
so I did a little research and found a story in a book about a tree nut (like me) who would go out every fall with a rolled
up newspaper and beat the trunk of his dogwood, effectively "scaring" the tree into producing seeds. (Seems the threat of
demise creates the need to insure future generations of offspring.) So I tried it. Me and my rolled up newspaper, standing
between my house and the neighbor's, beating the trunk of the dogwood, yelling, "Bad dog! Now you produce flowers next spring
or ELSE!" And I think I was probably laughing sadistically too. Lo and behold, the following spring, the tree had the largest,
most profuse flowers ever! Was it the bad dog punishment? Or just the right combination of other factors like rain, sun and
nutrients in the soil? I've been too embarrassed to try the experiment again. My neighbor's teenage son already calls me the
"crazy tree lady."
Update.. (April 2006)
In June of 2004, I diagnosed this tree with anthracnose. It is a neverending battle, but one well worth fighting for this
beautiful and functional tree. See the anthracnose journal page for details on this tree's special care.
Planting date.. This tree
was planted by the previous owners of the house, probably around 1986. According to my neighbor, a friend harvested two saplings
from a field and gave one to the owners of my house, and one to my neighbor. Hence, an identical tree is in their front yard,
except their tree is much smaller now. (My neighbor was a pruner.) Bone meal was routinely applied to the base of our tree
(but not the neighbors') from the time it was planted until we took over in fall of 1996. That bone meal must have worked
for all those years because the tree has been very happy. In 2004, when my tree started showing signs of stress related to
a lack of nutrients in the soil, I began to think it might be wise to start adding bone meal again! Height at planting time:
rumored to be about 4 feet.
DO OVER?.. No, I don't
think I would plant non-specific dogwood cultivar again.
A walk around the block reveals that there are many dogwoods around my neighborhood with anthracnose so I would seek a more
disease-resistant tree, perhaps a redbud, a serviceberry, or a Yoshino cherry.
If I was dead set on a dogwood, I would look for a Kousa dogwood, which is a more disease-resistant cultivar.