Silky dogwood is a large shrub, often 6-10 feet in height. The growth habit is upright rounded, but where stems are in contact with the ground, roots are formed. This behavior creates thickets. Young dogwoods have bright red stems in the fall, winter and early spring, which turn reddish-brown in the summer. As the shrub matures, the stems turn reddish-brown year-round and later gray. Silky and redosier dogwood, though very similar, can be distinguished by their pith and fruit color. Silky dogwood has a brown pith in 1-2 year old stems, dark green ovate leaves, yellowish-white flowers which bloom in mid-June, and bluish colored fruit which matures in September. Redosier dogwood has a white pith, dark green ovate leaves, white flowers, and whitish colored fruit. There are approximately 12,000 seeds per pound.
Swida amomum (P. Mill.) Small
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Anonymous. 1986. List-Based Rec., Soil Conserv. Serv., U.S.D.A. Database of the U.S.D.A., Beltsville. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1103
- Voss, E. G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Bull. Cranbrook Inst. Sci. 59. xix + 724. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1700
- Gleason, H. A. 1968. The Choripetalous Dicotyledoneae. vol. 2. 655 pp. In H. A. Gleason Ill. Fl. N. U.S. (ed. 3). New York Botanical Garden, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1704
- Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles & C. R. Bell. 1968. Man. Vasc. Fl. Carolinas i–lxi, 1–1183. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/636
- Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Fl. Great Plains i–vii, 1–1392. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/637
- Fernald, M. 1950. Manual (ed. 8) i–lxiv, 1–1632. American Book Co., New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1327
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: C. amomum subsp. obliqua occurs from Maine south to Massachusetts west through New York (not in Pennsylvania), then further west and south through Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas, with a few locations west into Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. C. amomum subsp. amomum occurs from Pennsylvania south through Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, and northern Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Distribution and adaptation
Silky dogwood is adapted from Michigan and Wisconsin to Maine and south to Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. It has done exceptionally well in the Lake states, but poorly outside it’s natural range. It performs best in soils that are moist, somewhat poorly drained, moderately acidic to neutral, and in areas that have medium to coarse soils. It is highly tolerant of shade but not of droughty conditions.
For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Website.
Comments: C. obliqua is native to N. America and occurs in swamps, marshes, wet woods or thickets, and river banks. Wilson (1965) considers C. obliqua a subspecies of C. amomum. The two subspecies occur in similar habitats, but C. amomum subsp. obliqua tends towards more open areas than C. amomum subsp. amomum (Wilson 1965).
Windbreaks: The site must be prepared by reducing weed competition. If equipment can be used, plow or disc the site first. If equipment cannot be used, clear sod from a one foot square area and plant as soon as frost is gone in the Spring. For bare root plants, holes should be dug deep enough to accommodate the entire root system. Space plants 5-6 feet apart in a row. If planting in a cluster, 8x10 or 10x10 foot spacing is advisable.
Streambank stabilization: Steep slopes must first be graded. The slope should be 1:1 or flatter. Any trees
considered unstable should be removed. One year old rooted cuttings should be used for planting. Plant in early spring, preferably before May. Do not plant after June 1. Plant the cuttings two feet apart for streambank erosion control, four to six feet apart for wildlife habitat. Establishment with other species, such as willow and other riparian species, is a good practice. On sites with banks that may become dry over the summer, utilize silky dogwood next to the water, with
willows above. Immediately after planting, grasses and legumes may be planted to provide initial stabilization. After 2 or 3 years the dogwoods will become effective. Silky dogwood is vulnerable to livestock browsing. In order to ensure survival, fencing must be incorporated into the plan. Rooted hardwood cuttings are taken in January, allowed to develop callus in refrigerated storage, and planted in mid-May in well drained soil 2 inches apart. The cuttings should be 1/4-1/2 inch in diameter and 9 to 12 inches long. They should be planted with approximately 2 inches exposed above ground level.
Populations: Dogwood invasion of grasslands from swales, ravines, and woodland edges of floodplains is accelerated by vegetative reproduction and tolerance to wind, full exposure or partial shade, and dry soils (Pound and Clements 1900, Costello 1931, Steyermark 1940, Albertson and Weaver 1945, Weaver 1965, Duxbury 1982).
As density within a dogwood thicket increases, groundcover vegetation decreases and may become entirely absent (Aikman 1928, Weaver 1965). Annual weeds sometimes grow beneath dogwood (Duxbury 1982, Nyboer pers. comm. 1983), and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) may invade dogwood thickets (Albertson and Weaver 1945, Aikman 1928). Dogwood may persist and sometimes dominate the understory of woods (Duxbury 1982).
Life History and Behavior
Sexual reproduction: These dogwoods probably reach sexual maturity in three to four years. There is one viable seed per drupe in all four species (Stephens 1973).
Seed dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by a variety of birds, including crows, vireos, redheaded woodpeckers and bluebirds (Ridley 1930), autumn through winter (Stephens 1973). Availability of perching sites may be important in dispersal.
Germination: Germination usually occurs in the spring following seed production and dispersal to a favorable site, but may be delayed a year due to a dormant embryo, hard pericarp (Brinkman 1974), and possible chemical inhibition by the pulp (Goodwin 1948). Mechanical and chemical scarification and stratification techniques are used commercially to stimulate germination in dogwood (Brinkman 1974).
Seedling establishment: Some Cornus spp. shrub seedlings are tolerant of variable light intensities, and may become established in woodland edges, within woods, or in open areas (Gatherum et al. 1963, Smith 1975). Seedlings may invade grasslands alone or with other woody plants (McClain pers. comm.).
Asexual reproduction: C. drummondii, C. racemosa, C. stolonifera and C. obliqua reproduce most successfully by vegetative growth following seedling establishment. Thickets may expand by adventitious underground shoot growth or rhizomatous growth (Stephens 1973, Wilson 1965, Smith 1975).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Cornus amomum
No available public DNA sequences.
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cornus amomum
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
Global Short Term Trend: Increase of 10 to >25%
Comments: Cornus spp. are natural early successional components of many woodland ecosystems in North America. They have many adaptions that enable them to take advantage of open areas, including a large number of seeds, vigorous seedlings and rapid subsequent growth, dispersal by birds, and high tolerance to adverse conditions such as drought and shade (Smith 1975, citing Auclair and Cottam 1971). Rapid and extensive cloning by rhizomatous growth allows dogwood species to create dense thickets which crowd out desired grasses, sedges and forbs, and alter wildlife habitat. Invasion of dogwood, along with other woody species, into prairies and wetlands became more extensive mainly due to the post-settlement decline in wildfires.
Woody plant invasion of floodplains is a concern in some areas, particularly in the western U.S., where stream diversion has greatly reduced the flow in rivers. Water diversion can reduce river flow to the extent that dogwoods and other woody plants invade the floodplain, reducing river channel width and drastically altering wildlife habitat. For example, woody plant invasion, including C. drummondii, willows (Salix spp.), green ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica) and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), has reduced channel area of the Platte River in Nebraska by 50-85%, resulting in a loss of up to 97% of the roosting habitat for sandhill and whooping cranes and many other migratory birds (Currier 1987).
Pests and potential problems
‘Indigo’ silky dogwood has few problems with disease or insect pests. Webworm and scurfy scale have been observed. There has been some problem with cicadas stinging the stems. Lesions and cankers may also occur. However, these are not pathogenic and are thought to just be the tree's reaction to injury.
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
‘Indigo’ (MI) silky dogwood was released in 1982 from the Rose Lake, Michigan Plant Materials Center in cooperation with the MI Department of Natural Resources.
The planted areas should be examined each spring after the major runoff period has ended. Areas where vegetation has been destroyed must be immediately replaced with new plants. If any mechanical measures are being used to prevent erosion, they must also be maintained to prevent any more damage.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The primary use of this species is for field and farmstead windbreaks and wildlife borders. It is also being used with willows for streambank protection. Other beneficial uses are for fish and wildlife habitat improvement, slope stabilization, borders, and as an ornamental.
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