Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis

creek dogwood

Habit: this dogwood is a multi-stemmed open shrub growing rapidly to 15-18 ft (4-6 m). The leaves are dark green above and bluish-gray or green below. In spring the plant is covered with flat-topped clusters of creamy white flowers followed by blue-white berries. The leaves have prominent veins, turning a spectacular crimson in fall. When the leaves fall, they reveal red, showy twigs. It spreads rapidly by under ground stolons or by branches lying on the ground that root freely. This habit provides invaluable rehabilitation, runners hold soil, slow water flow and increase sedimentation.

Ecology: A characteristic species of swamps, low meadows, and riparian zones but also found in open upland forest under stories, and along forest margins. It ranges from valley bottoms to middle elevations. Creek dogwood seems to prefer wetland margins where soils are nitrogen-rich, shallowly flooded in the spring, and may be completely dry by late summer. It is not tolerant of long-term root saturation.

Growing Conditions: full sun to partial shade, tolerating moderate to dense shade. Consistently moist, neutral or slightly alkaline, humus rich loam or clay-loam soil that provides a deep root run.. Although not drought tolerant some late season drought appears to benefit plants by helping to initiate winter dormancy.

Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis attracts many birds, wildlife and pollinating insects, who rely on this shrub for food and cover.


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Type: Deciduous perennial
Height: 3-18 ft (1-6m)
Width: 5 ft (2m)
USDA Zones: 5-10
Map courtesy of USDA-NRCS Plants Database.