Cornus racemosa (Gray Dogwood)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; average moisture; open woods, woodland edges, savannas, fields, thickets, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||3 to 8 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Dome shaped clusters, 1½ to 2½ inches broad and about as high, of short-stalked flowers at the tips of branches. Flowers are creamy white, about ¼ inch across with 4 lance-elliptic petals, the sepals minute or absent. The 4 stamens are about as long as the petals, spreading to ascending around the single green tipped style at center.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are simple and opposite, 2 to 3½ inches long, ¾ to 1¾ inches wide, lance-elliptic, the tip tapered to a long, slender point, the base rounded or tapered to a ¼ to 2/3 inch stalk. The upper surface is dark green with 3 or 4 lateral veins per side, the lower pale green to nearly white, both surfaces with sparse, short, stiff, appressed hairs. Edges are smooth and often a bit wavy.
Twigs are tan to orange-brown, smooth but for a few dark, raised lenticels (pores) the first year that give it a warty texture. By the second year the bark has turned a dull but smooth brownish gray. Older bark lower on the lower stems can be rough and scaly. Stems are multiple from the ground, mostly straight and nearly simple with dense branching above. The spreading root system readily suckers, often creating large clonal colonies.
The dogwoods are distinguished from other flowering shrubs by the clusters of small, 4-petaled white flowers and opposite (except for 1 species) leaves that are toothless and have prominent, arching, lateral veins. Gray Dogwood is an upland forest species, however its does not tolerate too much shade, preferring areas with thin canopies or openings and does very well along roads that have cut through the forest. While it may reach heights of more than 10 feet, 6 feet or less is more typical. Its flowers, leaves and fruit may appear similar to Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), but the bark of that species, at least in part, is a deep red year round and leaves have 5 or 6 veins per side. As its name indicates, Gray Dogwood has gray bark, and its leaves have 3 or 4 veins per side. Some references have separated the dogwoods out of the Cornus genus into Swida, making Gray Dogwood Swida racemosa, but this is not universally accepted and not currently recognized in Minnesota.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Gray Dogwood shrubs
- Gray Dogwood shrub
- Gray Dogwood in a residential landscape
- leafing out in spring
- fall color
- mining bee and honey bee on Gray Dogwood
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Pine counties. Pollinator photos courtesy Heather Holm.
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