Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a deciduous tree native to temperate eastern United States and is the state tree of Virginia. Dogwoods grow in full sun to partial shade, in nutrient-rich, well-drained, acidic soils. Dogwood trees do not tolerate drought, waterlogged sites, pollution or compacted soils. Dogwood trees do well under shade of taller trees, as small shade trees for patio areas, and as a yard specimen. Dogwoods propagate by seed and grafting and are difficult to root with cuttings.
Trunk and Branches
Dogwood tree branches grow opposite on the trunk, are green or greenish-purple and waxy when young, and turn grayish-brown with age. Buds at the end of a twig resemble cloves and stem or leaf buds resemble a dull cat claw. Dogwood trunks develop scaly bark over time. Dogwoods grow to 40 feet tall, with a central, leading trunk and low branches leading to a broad, rounded canopy of leaves. Growing trees in the sun results in slower growth, more branching and more compact trees than those grown in shade, according to University of University of Florida extension literature.
Dogwood tree leaves are simple, light green, opposite each other on branches, and oval--3 to 5 inches long, with wavy edges. Fall foliage is bright red to maroon in cool climates, as well as in Florida, to some extent. Fall color varies and depends on site and seed source, according to University of Florida Extension literature. Leaf color varies with cultivar--First Lady has yellow-green variegated foliage.
Dogwood flowers are small, and greenish yellow and bloom in early spring before leaves expand. Four showy bracts (petal-like structures) surround each flower, with bract color varying by cultivar. Most flowering dogwoods have white bracts, but some cultivars have pink. Cherokee Princess dogwood has large white bracts and blooms early in the season. The fruit of dogwood trees is called a drupe. Dogwood drupes are red, up to a half inch long, found in clusters of three or four and visible in the fall. Varietal fruit differences exist, however--Xanthocarpa dogwood has yellow fruit.