Cornus racemosa (Gray Dogwood)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Cornaceae (Dogwood)
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: flat Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

[photo of twig] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a round, berry-like drupe, about ¼ inch diameter, white, often with a barely perceptible blueish flush, offset by vibrant red cluster stalks.


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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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Pine counties. Pollinator photos courtesy Heather Holm.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Angelique Wright - Saint Paul, Minnesota
on: 2018-08-06 15:56:34

several of these bushes are growing to the north of Battle Creek Middle School, across the large field from the school. They are beautiful, and I am glad to know they are not invasive! Hopefully they can keep the buck thorn growing over there at bay!

Posted by: cheryl batson - elm creek park reserve
on: 2019-01-11 04:08:58

These are in Elm Creek Park Reserve. Several significant clusters of them.

Posted by: Nate - Anoka
on: 2021-11-17 11:00:22

Do gray dogwoods require two plants to produce berries?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-11-17 12:02:43

Nate, according to Google, dogwoods cannot self-pollinate so, yes, two plants are required to produce fruit.

Posted by: jim stone - st paul
on: 2024-05-28 14:49:00

I have one of these trees that started growing in one of my gardens. Have to assume a bird gifted me a seed. it is not about 3-ft tall.

Posted by: Ronald Johannsen - Trenton Lake Freeborn co.
on: 2024-06-14 15:27:38

Many blooming this year after drought last summer.

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