Plant Profile: Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida

By Sally Marie Futch

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.


Figure 1. Four white bracts surrounding the
yellow-green flowers of C. florida.
Photo credit: Mickaw2.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Cornales
Family: Cornaceae
Genus: Cornus
Specific epithet: florida

Cornus florida or flowering dogwood: Cornus is from the Latin word of “cornu” meaning hard and bony, “florida” means flowering in Latin. The flowering dogwood is a tree typically found growing in the shaded understory of mesic hammocks.

Figure 2. Red drupes of C. florida.
Photo credit: Virginia Ducey.
You may think that the easiest way to identify the flowering dogwood is from its beautiful white ‘flowers’, but you would be mistaken (Figure 1). Those “flowers” are actually four modified leaves or bracts that surround clusters of the true green-yellow flowers (Figure 1). You can enjoy watching the blooms and the pollinators attracted to the nectar during the months of March to October. Also, the spring azure butterfly, Celastrina ladon, deposits its larvae on the plant. The fruits are red drupes that are eaten by birds and squirrels.

The roots have been used to make a red dye, the bark to treat malaria in humans, and the wood to make the heads of golf clubs!

The Dogwood is among the most commonly used in landscaping for their beauty. Unfortunately the fungus dogwood blight has decimated populations.

Interested in having one for your yard? Consider purchasing from a member of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries!



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