Trees & Shrubs – The Dogwoods Cornus – common dogwood / Cornus sanguinea

Trees & ShrubsFlowering Trees & Shrubs – The Dogwoods / Cornus – common dogwood / Cornus sanguinea

Cornus is a genus of about 30–60 species of woody plants in the family Cornaceae, commonly known as dogwoods, which can generally be distinguished by their blossoms, berries, and distinctive bark. Most are deciduous trees or shrubs, but a few species are nearly herbaceous perennial subshrubs, and a few of the woody species are evergreen.

Cornus sanguinea, the common dogwood, is a species of dogwood native to most of Europe and western Asia, occurring north to southern England and southern Scandinavia, and east to the Caspian Sea. (Wikipedia) It is widely grown as an ornamental plant in London.

Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). by Webster

Among the constituents of the broad hedgerow, and the copse that borders many a country road, the Dogwood or Cornel is apt to be overlooked as Privet, to which its similar, opposite leaves and clusters of small white flowers bear a superficial resemblance. It has a great variety of local names, though it must be admitted that many of these show close connections one with another. This, however, makes them not less interesting, but indicates how ancient and general is the underlying idea which has given rise to them. Dogwood had originally no connection with dogs, but was the wood of which dags, goads, and skewers were made, because, as the Latin Cornus signifies, it was of horny hardness and toughness. When the etymology got changed by the substitution of “o” for “a” in dag, it was also called Dog-tree, Dog-berry, Dog-timber, and Houndberry-tree, and to explain the name it was said that the bark made an excellent wash for mangy dogs. Gatter, Gatten, Gaiter, Gaitre-berry, are all from the Anglo-Saxon Gad-treow, or goad-tree; Gadrise means Goad-shrub (Gad-riis), and Gatteridge is gaitre rouge, from the red colour of the bare twigs.

dogwood-fruits-219x300 Trees & Shrubs - The Dogwoods Cornus - common dogwood / Cornus sanguinea
Dogwood fruits – London Tree Surgeons

Fruits of Dogwood.

dogwood-details-300x247 Trees & Shrubs - The Dogwoods Cornus - common dogwood / Cornus sanguinea
Dogwood or Cornel – London Tree Surgeons

Dogwood, or Cornel. A, flowers; B, berries.

But we must not overlook the shrub itself whilst considering its wealth of names. It grows to a height of six or eight feet, and is clothed with opposite oval leaves, which are smooth on both surfaces. The honeyed flowers are produced in June or July at the extremities of the branches in dense round cymes. Individually they are small (one-third of an inch across), opaque white, with four petals and four stamens, which mature concurrently with the stigma. They give out an unpleasant odour, which appears to render them more attractive to flies and small beetles. The flowers are succeeded by small green berries, which turn purple-black about September, and are exceedingly bitter. They are said to yield an oil which is used in France for soap-making, and has been here burned in lamps.

The Dogwood is widely distributed over Britain as far north as Westmoreland. It does not occur in Scotland, and is rare in Ireland. It would seem as though its place in North Britain was taken by a herbaceous species, the Dwarf Cornel (Cornus suecica), which grows upon Alpine moorlands from Yorkshire as far north as Sutherlandshire. The stems of this, which have as many inches to their stature as the shrub has feet, die down annually. Its minute flowers are purplish instead of white, and its smaller berries red.

dogwood-flowers-300x195 Trees & Shrubs - The Dogwoods Cornus - common dogwood / Cornus sanguinea
Dogwood flowers – London Tree Surgeons

Flowers of Dogwood.

The following Dogwoods are listed in Flowering Trees & Shrubs

CORNUS ALBA.—White-fruited Dogwood. Siberia, 1741. This is a native of northern Asia and Siberia, not of America as Loudon stated. For the slender, red-barked branches and white or creamy flowers, this species is well worthy of notice, while the white fruit renders it very distinct and effective. It grows to about 10 feet in height. C. alba Spathi is one of the most ornamental of shrubs bearing coloured leaves, these in spring being of a beautiful bronzy tint, and changing towards summer to a mixture of gold and green, or rather an irregular margin of deep gold surrounds each leaf. It was first sent out by the famous Berlin nurseryman whose name it bears. C. alba Gouchaulti is another variegated leaved variety, but has no particular merit, and originated in one of the French nurseries.

C. ALTERNIFOLIA.—North America, 1760. This species is a lover of damp ground, and grows from 20 feet to nearly 30 feet high, with clusters of pale yellow flowers, succeeded by bluish-black berries that render the plant highly ornamental. It is still rare in British gardens.

C. AMOMUM (syn C. sericea).—From the eastern United States. It is a low-growing, damp-loving shrub, with yellowish-white flowers, borne abundantly in small clusters. It grows about 8 feet in height, and has a graceful habit, owing to the long and lithe branches spreading regularly over the ground. The fruit is pale blue, and the bark a conspicuous purple.

C. ASPERIFOLIA is another showy American species, with reddish-brown bark, hairy leaves, of small size, and rather small flowers that are succeeded by pearly-white berries borne on conspicuous reddish stalks.

C. BAILEYI resembles somewhat the better-known C. stolonifera, but it is of more erect habit, is not stoloniferous, has rather woolly leaves, at least on the under side, and bears yellowish-white fruit. It grows in sandy soil, and is a native of Canada.

C. CALIFORNICA (syn C. pubescens) grows fully 10 feet high, with smooth branches, hairy branchlets, and cymes of pretty white flowers, succeeded by white fruit. It occurs from southern California to British Columbia.

C. CANADENSIS.—Dwarf Cornel or Birchberry. Canada, 1774. This is of herbaceous growth, and remarkable for the large cream-coloured flower bracts, and showy red fruit.

C. CANDIDISSIMA (syn C. paniculata) is a beautiful American species, with panicled clusters of almost pure white flowers, that are succeeded by pale blue fruit. It is a small growing tree, with narrow, pointed leaves, and greyish coloured, smooth bark. Like many of its fellows, this species likes rather moist ground.

C. CIRCINATA, from the eastern United States, is readily distinguished by its large, round leaves, these sometimes measuring 6 inches long by 3-1/2 inches wide. The yellowish-white flowers are individually small, and succeeded by bright blue fruits, each as large as a pea.

C. CAPITATA (syn Benthamia fragifera).—Nepaul, 1825. An evergreen shrub, with oblong, light green leaves and terminal inconspicuous greenish flowers, surrounded by an involucre of four large, pinky-yellow bracts. It is this latter that renders the shrub so very conspicuous when in full flower. Unfortunately, the Benthamia is not hardy throughout the country, the south and west of England, especially Cornwall, and the southern parts of Ireland being the favoured spots where this handsome shrub or small growing tree—for in Cornwall it has attained to fully 45 feet in height, and in Cork nearly 30 feet—may be found in a really thriving condition. Around London it does well enough for a time, but with severe frost it gets cut back to the ground, and though it quickly recovers and grows rapidly afterwards, before it is large enough to flower freely it usually suffers again. The fruits are as large and resemble Strawberries, and of a rich scarlet or reddish hue, and though ripe in October they frequently remain on the trees throughout the winter. Both for its flowers and fruit, this Nepaul shrub-tree is well worthy of a great amount of trouble to get it established in a cosy corner of the garden. Rich, well-drained loam is all it wants, while propagation by seed is readily effected.

C. FLORIDA, the Florida Dogwood, is not always very satisfactory when grown in this country, our climate in some way or other being unsuitable for its perfect development. It is a handsome shrub or small-growing tree, with small flowers surrounded by a large and conspicuous white involucre. The leaves are ovate-oblong, and pubescent on the undersides. It is a valuable as well as ornamental little tree, and is worthy of a great amount of coddling and coaxing to get it established.

C. KOUSA (syn Benthamia japonica).—Japan. This is a very distinct and beautiful flowering shrub. Flowers very small individually, but borne in large clusters, and yellow, the showy part being the four large, pure white bracts which subtend each cluster of blossoms, much like those in Cornus florida, only the bracts are more pointed than those of the latter species. Being quite hardy, and a plant of great interest and beauty, this little known Cornus is sure to be widely planted when better known.

C. MACROPHYLLA (syn C. brachypoda).—Himalayas, China and Japan, 1827. This is an exceedingly handsome species, of tabulated appearance, occasioned by the branches being arranged almost horizontally. The leaves are of large size, elliptic-ovate, and are remarkable for their autumnal tints. The elder-like flowers appear in June. They are pure white and arranged in large cymes. C. macrophylla variegata is a distinct and very ornamental form of the above, in which the leaf margins are bordered with white.

C. MAS.—Cornelian Cherry. Austria, 1596. One of our earliest flowering trees, the clusters of yellow blooms being produced in mild seasons by the middle of February. It is not at all fastidious about soil, thriving well in that of very opposite description. It deserves to be extensively cultivated, if only for the profusion of brightly-tinted flowers, which completely cover the shoots before the leaves have appeared. C. Mas aurea-elegantissima, the tricolor-leaved Dogwood, is a strikingly ornamental shrub, with green leaves encircled with a golden band, the whole being suffused with a faint pinky tinge. It is of more slender growth than the species, and a very desirable acquisition to any collection of hardy ornamental shrubs. C. Mas argenteo-variegata is another pretty shrub, the leaves being margined with clear white.

C. NUTTALLII grows to fully 50 feet in height, and is one of the most beautiful of the Oregon and Californian forest trees. The flower bracts are of large size, often 6 inches across, the individual bracts being broad and white, and fully 2-1/2 inches long.

C. OFFICINALIS is a Japanese species, that is, however, quite hardy in this country, and nearly resembles the better known C. Mas, but from which it may at once be known by the tufts of brownish hairs that are present in the axils of the principal leaf veins.

C. STOLONIFERA.—Red Osier Dogwood. North America, 1741. This has rather inconspicuous flowers, that are succeeded by whitish fruit, and is of greatest value for the ruddy tint of the young shoots. It grows fully 6 feet high, and increases rapidly by underground suckers. The species is quite hardy.

C. TARTARICA (syn C. siberica).—Siberia, 1824. This has much brighter coloured bark, and is of neater and dwarfer habit, than the typical C. alba. It is a very beautiful and valuable shrub, of which there is a variegated leaved form.

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