AppearanceFlowering dogwood is a small deciduous tree growing to 10 m high, often wider than it is tall when mature, with a trunk diameter of up to 30 cm . A 10-year-old tree will stand about 5 m tall. The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, 6–13 cm long and 4–6 cm broad, with an apparently entire margin ; they turn a rich red-brown in fall.
The flowers are individually small and inconspicuous, with four greenish-yellow bracts 4 mm long. Around 20 flowers are produced in a dense, rounded, umbel-shaped inflorescence, or flower-head, 1–2 cm in diameter. The flower-head is surrounded by four conspicuous large white, pink or red "petals" , each bract 3 cm long and 2.5 cm broad, rounded, and often with a distinct notch at the apex. The flowers are bisexual.
When in the wild they can typically be found at the forest edge and popular on dry ridges. While most of the wild trees have white bracts, some selected cultivars of this tree also have pink bracts, some even almost a true red. They typically flower in early April in the southern part of their range, to late April or early May in northern and high altitude areas. The similar Kousa dogwood , native to Asia, flowers about a month later.
The fruit is a cluster of two to ten drupes, each 10–15 mm long and about 8 mm wide, which ripen in the late summer and the early fall to a bright red, or occasionally yellow with a rosy blush. They are an important food source for dozens of species of birds, which then distribute the seeds.
UsesOther old names now rarely used include American Dogwood, Florida Dogwood, Flowering Dogwood, Indian Arrowwood, Cornelian Tree, White Cornel, White Dogwood, False Box, and False Boxwood. This species has in the past been used in the production of inks, scarlet dyes, and as a quinine substitute. The hard, dense wood has been used for products such as golf club heads, mallets, wooden rake teeth, tool handles, jeweler’s boxes and butcher’s blocks. ''Cornus florida'' is the state tree and flower of Virginia. It is also the state tree of Missouri and state flower of North Carolina. It was used to treat dogs with mange, which may be how it got its name. The red berries are edible, but do not taste good.
In 2012, the United States sent 3,000 dogwood saplings to Japan to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Washington D.C. cherry trees given as a gift to the U.S. by Japan in 1912.
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