Comprehensive Description

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General: Dogwood Family (Cornaceae). Flowering dogwood is a deciduous multi-branched shrub or small tree, characterized by a rounded crown and horizontal branches that spread wider than its height. Flowering dogwood is typically 5 to 15 m tall. The bark on mature trees is broken into small square blocks that give the stem an “alligator” appearance. Leaves are opposite, simple, medium-green in color, 7.6 to 15 cm long, and less than 7 cm wide. The veins follow the elliptic curve of the leaf (arcuate). Autumn foliage turns red or purple. The flowers are yellow, very small, and clustered into inflorescences that are surrounded by 4 large white (pink) bracts. Each bract has a rounded notch on the outer edge. The fruit are yellow to red berrylike drupes that contain one to two cream-colored, ellipsoid seeds. Flowers appear between March and June, with or before the leaves, and persist for 2 to 4 weeks. Fruits ripen in September and October.

Key characteristics of flowering dogwood are its opposite leaves with arcuate venation, large showy flowers (bracts), onion-shaped terminal flower buds, and alligator bark on mature trees.

Distribution: Flowering dogwood is native to the northeastern and southeastern United States. It occurs from Maine, south to Florida and west to eastern Texas, Missouri, Illinois, and southern Michigan. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site (

Habitat: Flowering dogwood is an important understory species in the eastern deciduous and southern coniferous forests. It is also found on floodplains, slopes, bluffs, ravines, gum swamps, along fencerows, and in old-field communities. It is mentioned in 22 of the 90 Society of American Foresters forest cover types including jack pine, beech-sugar maple, eastern hemlock, oak-hickory, and prairie.


Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database


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