Close up of silky dogwood flowers.

Silky dogwood twigs.

Silky dogwood blooms attract a lot of pollinators, like this carpenter bee.

A mass of silky dogwood growing in the wild.

By Katie Stannard
This week’s native plant is silky dogwood, Cornus amomum. Silky dogwood features four season interest with deep green leaves, white flowers, dark blue berries, colorful foliage, and reddish stems. 
Native to the eastern half of North America from Wisconsin to Vermont, and south to Florida, common names include red willow, silky cornel, and pale dogwood.
This large shrub of 10-15 feet grows in an upright, multi-stemmed, spreading fashion, sometimes developing dense thickets. Found in moist areas such as wetlands, swamps, and along lakes, streams, riverbanks. Suited to residential woodland or naturalized spaces with room to spread, or in areas for erosion control. It’s adaptable, tolerating clay soil, drought, and sun or shade.
Leaves are single, 3” wide and 2” long, opposite with smooth margins, ovate with prominent veins. Flat-topped, creamy white flower clusters appear in late spring. Beloved by pollinators, including three species of bees, it’s also a host plant for the spring and summer azure butterflies. Flowers are followed by clumps of ¼ inch indigo blue berries favored by birds including cardinal, thrushes, and downy woodpecker.

The fruits of silky dogwood are a beautiful blue shade and favored by birds.

Silky dogwood fall foliage.

Note the color difference in the stems here–reddish on the ones holding leaves and flowers and greenish below those.

A mass of silky dogwood growing in the wild.

Variable shades of maroon to purple-red foliage develop in the fall. Youngest stems are red, while older stems are greener and mature to gray. When branches touch the ground, they root at the nodes–one of the ways it colonizes.
Called “silky” because of the fine hairs on the underside of leaves, there’s some variability of this characteristic among subspecies, ranging from rust to white, with some present only on newer shoots.
Silky dogwood supports parasitoid or predatory insects that prey on other insect pests. It’s also used in wetland restoration areas to compete with invasive plants like phragmites and glossy buckthorn. 
While susceptible to scale, careful pruning of older, affected stems seems to address this issue, while also helping to maintain a desired shape.
Sources: (berries B.S. Walters; full shrub R. Schipper),,,,,
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