Flower Friday – Grey (eh?) Dogwood

The only shrub currently in bloom in my garden is Cornus racemosa – the grey dogwood. Or gray dogwood, if you prefer the American spelling. The ‘grey’ part comes from its bark, which, is, um, a dull grey, as opposed to a shiny red or yellow or brown most other dogwoods have. Racemosa refers to the type of flower it has – racemes. That’s interesting in itself, because a racime usually refers to many flowers coming off a central stalk (Lily of the Valley is a common example). Then I found this reference that says due to the branching of the inflorescence “…it should be called a panicle.” Whatever its called, mine is loaded with flowers right now, and the flowering period has been quite long this year, and it appears quite attractive to various pollinators.

This shrub is native to southeastern Canada and northeastern United States. I discovered one at the edge of our wooded area and liked its leaves, which have a pale, almost grey underside, and its berries, which are white and appear in the fall, long after berries from other dogwoods have been gobbled up by birds. I purchased another a few years ago. I should have done a bit of research before I planted it because, as I’m just now discovering, it has this habit of suckering. That is, it sends up shoots from the roots or base of the trunk, that will lead to a nice size clump up to 3.5 metres (12 feet) high and wide if not pruned.

When first planted, and even up to last year, the base of the dogwood was bare – just branches coming up, which is why I under-planted it with daylilies, sweet woodruff and a Clematis durandii. I’m still pondering if I should let the shrub grow naturally or prune away the suckers…
Here it is, just over two metres tall right now (about seven feet)

The denseness of this bush, if left unpruned, makes it ideal as a screen (it hides our propane tank from my kitchen window view) and is great for wildlife. It’s tough, grows in sun or part shade, adapts to moist or dry soil, apparently does well in a more polluted, urban environment, and the leaves, most years, will turn a nice red in the fall.


  1. It turns red? Well, like many deciduous plants that should get colorful for autumn, it might not get sufficient chill here. I have no idea where ours came from. It is quite old. I have never seen this species available in nurseries. My colleague who used to grow dogwoods never grew this one.

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      1. Autumn color there is SO RAD! Only a few species reliably develop color here. Even though I am a Californian, I do like good autumn color. Spray painting palm trees just doesn’t do it.

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  2. I have some branches from a red osier dogwood I collected from a ditch in Minnesota in 2011. They still have some of their red color! This is the second dogwood species I’ve seen that differs from our east Texas dogwood (Cornus florida). Yours is so pretty. It will be interested to see what happens if you decide to prune.

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    1. I love dogwood So Much! C. florida is native to parts of southern Ontario as well, but from the ones I’ve seen they don’t really like it here. C. alternifolia, on the other hand, are as happy as rabbits in heat. The flowers aren’t quite as spectacular, though.

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