- Broadleaf deciduous tree/shrub, 20-25 ft (6-7.6 m) tall, low branching, spreading horizontal.
Bark is gray-brown to blackish and broken into small squarish blocks, which some say resembles the back of an
alligator's back. (This similarity is also helpful in recalling the specific epithet of the plant, i.e.,
florida). Leaves opposite, simple, 7.5-15 cm long, oval or ovate, 6-7 vein pairs. Terminal flower buds
globose, biscuit shaped, flattened, and covered by two large appressed, pubescent scales.
True flowers are greenish yellow, only 6 mm, not showy, crowded on a 12 mm head,
which is subtended by 4 showy, white (or pink in C. f. f. rubra) bracts, this "flower" is
7.5-10 cm across. Fruit glossy red (0.8 cm long) in fall, 3-4 or more in a cluster.
- Sun to part shade. Does best in well drained acid soil with sufficient organic matter.
Mulch to maintain a cool, moist soil. Needs summer water.
It is essential to avoid putting this plant under stress, i.e. heat, drought, cold, for it predisposes it
to insect and disease attack. This species is susceptible to a number of pests.
- Hardy to USDA Zone (5)6 Native range extends from Massachusetts to Florida, west
to Ontario, Texas, and Mexico. In a good portion of this range native Cornus florida trees
are dying due to dogwood anthracnos, a disease caused by the fungus Discula destructiva.
- There are numerous cultivars (more than 80), which differ in "flower" (bract) color and size, leaf color
(e.g., variegated), and plant form (e.g., upright, compact, weeping).
For brief descriptions of cultivars, see Dirr (1998), Jacobson (1996), or Santamour and McArdle
[J. Arboriculture 11:29-36(1985)]. The latter authors observed that in the U.S. nursery trade
there was a "great deal of commercial synonymy", especially among the pink-bracted cultivars (i.e., a given
selection sold under several names).
- Oregon State Univ. campus: three near the southeast door of Ag. and Life Sciences.