Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is one of the first trees to color in the fall. The deep red leaves can glow neon if the sun backlights them. It  is beautiful in the fall and for at least three seasons.

The Flowering Dogwood  is the state flower of North Carolina, a fact I always thought strange. The dogwood tree with its tiny yellow flowers and showy white (or pink) bracts is the state flower.  Clearly botanists and gardeners did not have a say in this.

The state tree is the pine which is reasonable enough since they are everywhere here.  The Longleaf Pine has been proposed as the specific pine but has never been made official, so "Pine" it remains on the record since 1963.  Loblolly pine is more common, so maybe it should be that.  (So far no one's asked me.) For your further education, we also have a state beverage.  Milk.  And a state dog.  The plott hound.

Flowering dogwood will grow in sun or shade - you will often see it in the coastal plain in full sun.  It always seems overexposed, though, with a tight little crown and short trunk.  Even if they flower prolifically in that situation which they often do,  I feel their stress in those grassy lawns with intense light.  In my mind I move them and they are in the company of oaks, elms and hickories as graceful understory trees.  There they are cooler, spreading branches and lighting up the shade with their white blooms.

Flowering dogwood is one of our most beautiful native plants for Charlotte and all of North Carolina.  Every shady garden should have at least one.

Cornus florida, NCSU Fact Sheet
NC State Symbols


  1. I am loving all the dogwoods in my neck of the woods....the red in the landscape really makes them shine.

  2. I agree that the exposed dogwoods looked stressed. We have quite a few and they're all understory trees. We had some beautiful dogwoods overhanging our back fence from the neighbor's yard. We really grieved the loss of them when the neighbor cut them down. I can't decide if I love them more in the spring or the fall - they're so beautiful in both seasons.

  3. The leafs look beautiful! I have never seen this tree blooming, it looks very nice. Funny that is the state flower

  4. I remember reading that dogwoods only have a life expectancy of 50 years, than they look pitiful till they die. That explains a lot of them in the neighborhoods that are older here. Nice pictures, take care, Gina

  5. Our state tree and flower in Va. is also the Dogwood, the two states also share the same state bird. Odd we are matchty matchy.

    I have found that this is one of the first trees new gardeners want to plant and it is also the first choice for memorial trees. Bad idea on both counts as it is so easy to die.

  6. The Dogwoods are really looking beautiful now with the red berries and gorgeous colored leaves!


  7. Dogwoods are beautiful. I am enchanted with your second picture.

  8. We do love the dogwood trees here in the mountains. It is thrilling to see them blossoming in the woods. And the red leaves bring us joy in the fall.

  9. I used to live in an urban home with three ancient dogwoods fronting the road, totally exposed to everything. They looked so twisted and sad, and every time I passed them I wanted to cringe. In this neighborhood, since we are surrounded by native forest, the dogwoods blend in beautifully, as understory.

    Have you heard that the dogwood is threatened, though, by a disease which is spreading and is nearly 100% fatal? From what I understand, the reach of the tree is expected to move slowly south and the best sites for dogwoods to be more sunny than usual -- because that disease thrives in cooler, damp conditions such as we find under the canopy of the Appalachian forest. And if no amelioration is found for the disease, it's possible this beloved tree is facing extinction some ways down the road. :(