Dogwood trees (Cornus florida) are part of the Cornus genus in the Cornaceae family. The trees are also commonly known as flowering dogwood. Dogwood trees are woody plants that are deciduous, meaning that all of their their leaves fall off seasonally. There are both evergreen and herbaceous perennial varieties of dogwoods.
Dogwood trees originate in the eastern region of North America, and are common from the southern portion of Maine in New England to the southern tip of the Canadian province of Ontario, all the way to eastern Texas and over to northern Florida. There are dogwood trees in areas of eastern Mexico, as well.
The trees are relatively small and grow to a maximum of approximately 33 feet in height. They are often wider than they are tall, and can grow to about 35 feet across. However, dogwoods are generally around 15 feet tall and between 15 and 20 feet in width. The trees have short trunks and rounded crowns. In mature dogwoods, the bark is divided up into small square units. The leaves are opposite and generally between 3 and 6 inches in length. In the fall, the leaves become purple and red. The flowers bloom during the spring, and are showy for about two to three weeks. The flowers are either pink or pale white in color. The trees bear vibrant fruits that are shaped similarly to footballs.
Dogwood trees thrive in broken or partial shade. However, they are also able to tolerate full sun. In northern regions, the trees work best with full sun. In the sun, the trees work best with some shade. If the trees experience any stress, they become prone to diseases. The trees can tolerate regular dry periods, although during severe droughts will need extra water. They are hardy in the United States Department of Agriculture zones 5 through 9.
The trees are one of the most well-known ornamental and landscape trees in the United States. They are commonly used as framing trees and background trees, and are often placed under big pines or oaks. Since the trees have dense crowns, they offer excellent shade and can be beneficial in small yards.
Dogwood trees are susceptible to various diseases, particularly dogwood blight, which is a fungal disease. One of the main signs of dogwood blight is the appearance of tiny spots with purplish margins on the foliage. Dogwood blight gradually kills all of the leaves of the tree. The tree usually dies between two and three years later. Dogwoods that receive ample sunlight and proper air circulation tend to not get the disease. Other possible diseases that dogwoods could experience include phytophthora leaf blight, cankers and powdery mildew, particularly when the weather is wet. However, they are usually not fatal.