This tree is considered by many to be the most beautiful of our native understory trees in North America. It is found throughout the eastern half of the United States from Maine to Florida, westward to Louisiana, and northward to Illinois.
This tree grows to approximately 40 feet tall and is often found as a substory species blooming from March through October depending on the latitude of the plant. It produces white or pink flowers which are actually the bracts of the stem. The flowers are very inconspicuous and produce large red seeds in the autumn. The green leaves turn a bright red during the late autumn, highlighting its presence.
The flowering dogwood is found in shade to partial shade areas in rich, well-drained soils. It is cold tolerant. It grows well in thickets, near small waterways, and shaded deciduous woods.
This is an excellent species to use as an accent plant in lawns, as an understory tree, or as an addition to a moist or watered area.
The flowering dogwood is susceptible to many diseases, perhaps the primary one being fungal anthracnose, which started in New England many decades ago and which is now found throughout the Chattanooga area. No preparation is known to cure this problem short of cutting down the dogwood. Thankfully, the Reflection Riding Arboretum is now stocked with flowering dogwood that is resistant to this fungal contaminant.
Birds and butterflies are attracted to this species for very different reasons; butterflies are seeking nectar during the flowering period and birds, later in the year, are looking for the seeds.
This species can be propagated from the seeds, but they must be either sown in the late autumn to germinate in the spring or they can be stratified at 41oF for 30 to 40 days in the refrigerator and then planted in the spring.
The flowering dogwood benefits from adding 2 – 4 inches of mulch from the stem to the drip line to encourage the roots and to reduce drying out of the roots.
Flowering dogwood (disease resistant) are grown and available in the nursery of Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center.
Charlie is a retired professor and Biological Oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia System for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!
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Planting native helps restore the natural habitat required for beautiful birds, butterflies and other insects to thrive. Plus, native plants are supposed to be here, so they're often more tolerant of neglect, poor soil, and draught.