Before foliage develops, this American dogwood is a cloud of profuse pink bloom in a partly shaded and sheltered garden.

The state tree of Missouri produces the state flower of North Carolina, which are both the state tree and state flower of Virginia, but no so exploited by the state that it seems to be named for! The American dogwood, Cornus florida, is such a classic American tree that last year, young trees were given to Japan to commemorate the gift of Japanese flowering cherry trees from Japan a century earlier.

Profuse early spring bloom is not what it seems to be. Tight clusters of minute flowers would not be much to look at, but are surrounded by four big white bracts (modified leaves) that really put on an impressive show before green leaves develop. Many modern varieties have pink or nearly brick red bracts, and a few get variegated foliage as bloom dissipates. Foliage can get quite colorful just before it falls in autumn.

In the wild, American dogwoods are ‘understory’ trees that are happiest in forests of larger trees that shelter them from harsh sun exposure and drying wind. In relatively arid western climates, they want rich soil, regular watering and partial shade at least after noon. They are sensitive to reflected glare and wind, as well as alkalinity and salinity. (Too much fertilizer will roast the foliage.) Since American dogwood trees rarely get more than fifteen feet tall in cultivation, they are proportionate to sheltered atriums. Wild trees do not get much taller than thirty feet.

4 thoughts on “American Dogwood

    1. My colleague grew them on the farm, but their market was quite limited here. I have not worked in many regions where they perform well. In this particular situation, they perform remarkably well. Several live within our landscapes. However, although we recently planted a few more, and planted several a not too long prior to that, we will not likely add many more. Most of the bloom happens in the spring here, but most of the traffic is during summer. We would therefore prefer to add more trees that bloom for summer.

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