The flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is a small deciduous tree in the family Cornaceae. Other older names for this tree include American Dogwood, Florida Dogwood, Indian Arrowwood, and false boxwood. It is native to the southeastern United States with an endemic population that once spanned from southern Maine south to Florida and west to the Mississippi River. When in the wild their blooms are white. They can typically be found at the forest edge and frequently on dry ridges.
They are impressive trees to have around and can be used in small groupings, as a lawn tree or along borders. Their form is often wider than it is tall with a trunk diameter of up 1 foot at maturity. Dogwood trees are extremely sensitive to stem and trunk injuries so mulching around the base is recommended. The leaves are simple and opposite with a length of approximately 3″ to 6″ long. The leaves of this tree can exhibit good fall foliage color. Dogwoods are commonly planted as an ornamental in residential and public areas because of its showy bracts and interesting bark structure.
Around twenty inconspicuous flowers are produced in a dense, rounded, umbel-shaped flower-head up to 3/4″ in diameter. The flower-head is surrounded by four large white, pink or red “petals” that are actually considered bracts or modified leaves. Each bract is nearly 2″ long with a distinct notch at the apex. The flowers are perfect with both male and female parts. They typically flower in early April in the southern part of their range, and late April or early May in Northern regions. The bloom time is effective for about two weeks. Flowering occurs before leaf out.
Remember that in the wild, dogwoods are typically an understory tree. The best planting site should be selected and should have well-drained soil high in organic matter with an acidic pH. Dogwoods can be planted in full sun or partial shade, though partial morning sun is best. Plants should be watered weekly during droughts, with watering done in the morning, avoiding wetting the foliage. Their hardiness zone is from 5–9.
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.