There are many different species of dogwood (Cornus spp.), some of which are native to Missouri. These trees are grown primarily for their showy dogwood flowers. Some dogwoods grow as trees, while others have more of a shrublike habit. Dogwood trees in MO flower at different times during the spring and early summer depending on the species.
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Types of Dogwood Trees
Some dogwood trees are native to Missouri, including the flowering dogwood, which is actually the state tree of Missouri. It is native to eastern North America, with its range stretching from Canada to Mexico. The Kousa tree (Cornus kousa), a species native to Asia, is another popular option with greater disease resistance than the flowering dogwood. Both of these trees have a height between 15 and 30 feet.
The cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) is another disease-resistance species. However, it is not as showy as the flowering and Kousa dogwoods, and it is often used as a hedge. Among dogwoods with shrublike habits, a native option for Missouri is the gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), which is prized for its ability to survive in a wide range of soils, including dry ones, and it is also well suited for urban conditions. The tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba), which is native to Asia, is also a shrub.
Characteristics of Dogwood Flowers
Dogwood trees are grown primarily for their showy blooms. However, what appear to be the "flowers" of a dogwood tree are in fact four flat bracts that look like petals. The bracts surround the tree's actual flowers, which are small and yellow and grow in clusters. The bracts of the species flowering and Kousa dogwoods are usually white; however, the pink dogwood (Cornus florida var. rubra), a cultivar of the flowering dogwood, has – as its name suggests – pink bracts. The bracts create the appearance of large, open flowers that may be 3 to 5 inches wide depending on the species and cultivar.
Not all dogwood trees have these showy bracts, however. The cornelian cherry dogwood produces clusters of yellow flowers without bracts, which makes this tree less ornamental than some of the other species.
After flowering, in the summer, dogwood trees and shrubs also produce dogwood berries that are attractive to birds. The berries of some species, like the flowering dogwood, are red, while those of the gray dogwood shrub are white.
Dogwood Flowering Times
The flowering dogwood blooms in April and May throughout its range, which includes the state of Missouri. The Kousa dogwood and the tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba) bloom later in the year in May and June. The cornelian cherry dogwood is one of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring, with flowers emerging in March. In this species, the flower clusters precede the leaves.
Some dogwood shrubs that can be grown in Missouri, including the native gray dogwood and the tatarian dogwood, also bloom in May and June. The tatarian dogwood may continue to produce some flowers during the summer. However, the flowers of dogwood shrubs are not as ornamental as those of the flowering or Kousa dogwoods.