Flowering Dogwood

Is there a tree more lovely in flower than the North American native dogwood?

Whether flowering with the classic white bracts, the stunning rubra bracts, or the less often seen pale, creamy rose-tinted bracts, our native dogwood (Cornus florida) never ceases to give pause for beauty given.

NATIVE TREES SUPPORT NATIVE POLLINATORS!

At this time of year when traveling along southern New England roadways we are graced by the beauty of the dogwood dotting sunny roadside borders where meets the woodland edge. The bracts and flowers emerge before the leaves, serving only to heighten their loveliness. The fresh beauty of the bract-clad boughs is offset by the impressionistic symphony of tree foliage unfurling, shimmering in hues of apple green, chartruese, moss, and lime peel.

*Bract – A bract is a leaf-like structure surrounding a flower or inflorescence. The colorful bracts of poinsettias, the hot pink bracts of bougainvillea, and the bracts of dogwoods are often mistaken for flower petals.

The open florets (pea-green colored) and unopened buds are surrounded by the rose red-shaded bracts.

Read about how to help prevent an attack by the lethal dogwood anthracnose.

Many dogwoods in our region are inflicted with the lethal dogwood anthracnose. The problem is exacerbated by the vast majority of information regarding growing flowering dogwoods, which wrongly suggests planting in part shade, and does not differentiate between gardening in the north versus gardening in the Midwest or northern Florida for that matter. If one lives in warmer regions south of New England, yes, perhaps it is possible to grow a healthy C. florida in partial shade.

Dogwood anthracnose is caused by the aptly named fungus Discula destructiva. It will typically kill an untreated Cornus florida within two to three years. As we look to nature for an answer, the native flowering dogwoods growing in the fertile, moist, friable soil of the Northeastern woodlands, as understory trees, are the trees most affected by anthracnose. Cornus florida growing in an open, sunny location are far less afflicted. What we learn from this lesson is to choose a location that has good air circulation and full sun. What we know is that Discula destructiva requires high humidity for infection; therefore trees planted in mesic (wet) sites in the shade are more susceptible than trees growing in xeric (dry) sites.

Discula destructiva is a soil born disease. Dogwood trees inflicted with anthracnose will begin to show signs of infection by dying from the bottom up. The lower branches will become twiggy and will not flower or leaf-out. This is the opposite of what you may see if a tree is losing foliage along the upper branches because of drought stress, for example.  A tree that is stressed from lack of water or nutrients will, generally speaking, begin to show signs of trouble from the top down.

Our lovely Cornus florida var. rubra (my second go around with this species; the first was killed by anthracnose) shows signs of drought stress every year, usually during the dog days of late summer. I place the hose at the base of the tree, allowing water to gently flow overnight (never wet the foliage of your dogwood). Visibly, the tree will perk up. Typically this will need to be done every few days, until the next soaking rain. Any tree that is stressed from lack of water is more susceptible to disease. Along with monitoring our tree for drought stress, and because we plant densely beneath the tree’s boughs, I have found these measures, thus far, have served to prevent an outbreak of anthracnose.

Newly emerging flowering dogwood early morning sun

About Kim Smith

Currently creating documentary films about the Monarch Butterfly, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, and Gloucester's Feast of St. Joseph. Landscape designer for the Gloucester Harbor Walk Gardens. Designer, lecturer, author, illustrator, photographer. Visit my blog for more information about my landscape and interior design firm- kimsmithdesigns.wordpress.com. Good Morning Gloucester daily contributor. Author/illustrator "Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden"
This entry was posted in Home and Garden and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Flowering Dogwood

  1. Karen says:

    Gorgeous pictures, Kim. Spring has to be one of the most beautiful seasons … seems like everything is blooming (trees, shrubs, bulbs, etc.) .. also lovely are the different shades of greens and bronze of trees just beginning to “leaf out.”

    • Kim Smith says:

      Thank you Karen!
      Yes–all is rushing out, all at once, especially this year. Looking through my photo library, the dogwoods are THREE weeks ahead of last year’s bloom time!

  2. Anthony Marks says:

    Great photos Kim
    Anthony

Leaving a comment rewards the author of this post- add to the discussion here-

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s