One species or another of the dogwood tree (genus Cornus) can be found growing across every state in the continental U.S. as well as all of Canada. Of the 23 native and introduced varieties identified by the United States Department of Agriculture, several native species of the tree grow in Ohio.
Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) is one of the more diminutive species of dogwoods native to Ohio. This small woody shrub rarely grows above 6 feet. The tree’s small white blossoms emerge in early summer, and the fruit is a small white berry. Gray dogwood is frequently planted for erosion control and to provide food and nesting areas for birds. The tree grows as far north as Quebec and as far south as Texas.
Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), also called red willow, is also classified as a small woody shrub. A mature specimen typically reaches 20 feet tall. In the wild, the tree can be identified by its smooth bark that ranges in color from bright red to purple. The tree’s tiny yellowish-white flowers emerge in the summer. The fruit of the tree is a small white berry, which is an important food source for many native songbirds and game birds.
Roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii, \ another native dogwood species in Ohio, has a USDA classification of either a small tree or a woody shrub. The tree’s small white flowers form in dense clusters on branch tips. Its native range is the central U.S. As with other dogwoods, the roughleaf is shade-tolerant.
Grown primarily as a windbreak or for stream-bank control, silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) is a smaller dogwood variety that can grow up to 10 feet tall. More of a woody shrub than a tree, the plant grows best in moist conditions where drainage is poor. The tree’s small yellowish-white blossoms appear in the summer and once pollinated, form small blue berries. The silky dogwood is well adapted to growing in full shade, but has poor drought tolerance.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), also known as American boxwood, grows not only in the Buckeye State but across much of the eastern half of the U.S. A showy ornamental often planted as a street tree, it grows best in partial to full shade. In the wild, flowering dogwoods inhabit the moist humus-rich understory of taller stands of hardwoods. A mature specimen may reach a height of about 40 feet. Each of the plant’s pinkish-white blossoms consists of four petals surrounding a prominent center disc. The tree’s fruit is poisonous to humans.