The name dogwood dates back to the 16th century when the wood from these trees were used for making daggers and arrows. The name was originally "dagwood," but has evolved over the centuries to become dogwood. The flowers on a dogwood tree are easily distinguishable by the small star shaped pale flowers they produce. Dogwood trees are popular for ornamental use and the flower of the Pacific dogwood is the official flower for British Columbia.
The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small tree, native to central and eastern United States, growing to around 30 feet tall. It flowers in early spring with flowers that are white, pink or yellow in color. The fruits of the Cornus florida appear in the autumn, are small and red and often eaten by birds. Optimal growing conditions include chalky soil and a partially shaded area. This tree is susceptible to the disease dogwood anthracnose, which is caused by a fungus. The trees should not be transplanted from forests to gardens as this fungus spreads quickly.
Japanese Flowering Dogwood
The Japanese flowering dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a small deciduous tree that grows up to 24 feet in height and is native to eastern Asia. It grows white, star-shaped flowers that are slow to bloom and appear later then other dogwood tree species. The berries are edible and are red and pink in color. It grows well in full sunlight and in slightly acidic, well-drained soil.
The pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is native to North America and is also known as the alternate-leaved dogwood, as the leaves are arranged alternatively on the tree. This deciduous tree grows 25 feet tall with a trunk of 6 inches in diameter. The fruits on the tree are purple and have an unsavory aroma. The leaves are smooth and green on the upper side and hairy with a blue tinge on the underneath. This tree is often used as an ornamental planting due to the wide-spread branches and cream-petaled flowers.
The Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) tree is found in North America and grows to a height of 70 feet. The leaves are oval and measure 4 inches in length. The flowers are white and inconspicuous and the fruit is a pink berry measuring an inch in diameter. These berries contain around 100 seeds and are edible. The bark of this tree is used by Plateau Indians to induce vomiting.
The corneliancherry dogwood (Cornus mas) is a small tree that grows to a height of 36 feet with simple dark green leaves measuring 3 inches in length. The flowers are small and yellow and grow in clusters in March and April. The berries are bright red and appear in mid summer. Once the berries are dark red they can be eaten but are usually consumed by birds before this is possible. This dogwood tree grows well in rich, well drained soil.