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Plant Profile: Flowering Dogwood

(by Melissa Moore)

Homeowners treasure the Flowering Dogwood tree for its beautiful spring display. The showy display is not the true flower. The dogwood’s flower is a small, yellow greenish cluster that is surrounded by the eye-catching bracts. These bracts range in color from white to pink and commonly appear in a set of four. The bract and flower measure 3 inches across and may last up to two weeks. Birds and other pollinators will visit the flowers in spring. Their pollination efforts determine the fruit set that appears later.

The Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is hardy to zone 5 and will grow to a mature height of approximately 20’. It prefers partial sun and well drained soil. This North American native boasts four season appeal as green leaves and tiered branches shade birds in the summer. In the fall, the green leaves take on a burgundy red appearance. The shiny red fruits called drupes are a bird favorite. The berries may persist after the leaves drop. Once the burgundy red leaves fall, the Flowering Dogwood’s bark and form are appealing in the winter landscape.

The Flowering Dogwood has proven susceptible to a fungus disease called Dogwood Anthracnose. To combat this disease, plant researchers have developed a range of cultivars that offer resistance to Dogwood Anthracnose. Homeowners looking to purchase a new flowering dogwood are encouraged to review plant catalogs with care and choose from some of the new introductions. The disease is present when summer leaves show black/tan spots, holes and are blighted in appearance. The Flowering Dogwood will thrive as long as care is taken to avoid damaging the trunk with lawn mowers or string trimmers.

Photos by Becky Suomala.

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