Cornus amomum (Silky Dogwood)
|Also known as:||Pale Dogwood, Swamp Dogwood|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist to wet soil; wetlands, shores|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||6 to 12 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: none MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flat to convex clusters, 1 to 2½ inches broad, of short-stalked flowers at the tips of branches. Flowers are creamy white, about 3/8 inch wide, with 4 lance-oblong to narrowly triangular petals and 4 sharp sepals that are visible between the petals. The 4 stamens are about as long as the petals, spreading to ascending around the single green-tipped style at center. Flower stalks are silky hairy.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are simple and opposite, lance-elliptic to narrowly egg-shaped, 2 to 3½ inches long, ¾ to 2 inches wide, the tip abruptly tapered to a point, the base rounded or tapered, on a stalk up to ¾ inch long. The upper surface is dark green with 4 or 5 evenly spaced lateral veins per side; the lower surface is paler, both with short, stiff, appressed hairs. Edges are smooth.
Older branches stay dark purple for several years though become densely patterned with vertical brownish lenticels (pores). Older bark is thin and gray, mostly smooth though roughish. Stems are multiple from the ground, often arching, rarely larger than 1 or 2 inches in diameter at breast height.
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. Silky Dogwood is the least common of Minnesota's native dogwoods and is only occasional in open wetlands and forest fringes in (roughly) the southeast quarter of the state. Where present, it is likely growing in fairly close association with the somewhat similar Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), which is just about everywhere. Silky dogwood can be readily distinguished by its densely hairy young twigs, the dense vertical lenticels on older branches, a brown pith in older branches and, when present, its silvery blue fruit. Some references have separated the dogwoods out of the Cornus genus into Swida, making Silky Dogwood Swida amomum, but this name is not universally accepted and not currently recognized in Minnesota. Based on the accepted name in Minnesota, there are 2 varieties: var. amomum that typically has rusty brown hairs on leaves, and var. schuetzeana (Swida amomum var. schuetzeana) that typically has white hairs and is present in Minnesota. But let's throw another monkey wrench into the taxonomic mix: another synonym with varying degrees of acceptance for var. schuetzeana is Cornus obliqua, or Cornus amomum subsp. obliqua. Maybe in a few years this will all get worked out...or not...
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- Silky Dogwood shrubs
- Silky Dogwood branches
- leafing out in spring
- comparison of Silky and Red-osier Dogwood branches
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?