This week’s native plant is flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).
Next to the eastern redbud, few spring trees rival flowering dogwood’s ethereal beauty. This small tree grows from southwestern Maine to Ontario to Illinois and down to Florida. Although the University of Michigian Herbarium lists C. florida as observed mostly in the southern half of Michigan, flowering dogwood is likely near its northern range in Michigan.
Flowering dogwood seems to have it all: dazzling spring bloom, bright red fruits and fiery fall foliage, and distinctive alligatored bark, along with a graceful, pyramidal layered shape at maturity.
We say “seems to” because C. florida also has some drawbacks. It is relatively slow-growing. It is particular about its planting site: partial shade, mulched base, evenly moist, acidic, and well-drained soil. And it is prone to the dogwood anthracnose (the fungus Discula destructiva), which in some parts of the eastern United States has seriously decimated the population. The flowers and twigs may also suffer die back during a particularly harsh winter.
The leaves of flowering dogwood turn a brilliant red in the fall. Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden.