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True to its common name, this erect deciduous shrub has large, rounded leaves and dense, flat-topped clusters of white flowers that bloom between late May and July.  It typically grows 10 feet tall, but the height can vary from 3 to 16 feet. Roundleaf dogwood is native to the northern parts of eastern and central United States.  In Ohio, it’s a potentially threatened species that is found mainly in the north in sandier soils. It’s a hardy plant that will grow in full or part sun and most types of soils, including heavy clay. It may appear as a single-stemmed tree with a vase-like form or as a shrub with multiple widely spaced stems.  Dogwoods are distinguished from other flowering shrubs by clusters of four-petaled white flowers and opposite leaves with smooth margins and curving parallel veins.  Roundleaf dogwood also features round, bluish-white berries on scarlet stems that are enjoyed by many species of birds and mammals.  The fall foliage tends to change from year to year; the foliage may turn crimson one year but display yellow, maroon, and violet the next. Plants in this genus are resistant to honey fungus.


Native habitats include understories of deciduous and mixed forests, thickets, rocky slopes, openings in woods, and woodland borders. Use in the back of a shade garden, as an understory on woodland borders, on steep and shady slopes, or as a specimen shrub.  It spreads via rhizomes to form colonies and makes an attractive, informal hedge.


Plant Characteristics:

Most commonly grows 6-10' tall, but can vary from 3-16.'


Prefers full or part sun. Very shade tolerant.  


Grows in well-drained or somewhat-dry to average soils,

including sandy and clay soils.


Flowers are in flat or rounded-top clusters 1-3” across at tips of branches in early summer. They are creamy white with 4 narrow petals and 4 long stamens around a single white style. Round, berry-like drupes that are ¼” in diameter follow on red stalks. They contain one seed and are white or bluish.  


Leaves are simple and opposite, 2-6” long, broadly egg-shaped or circular with a short, sharp point.  Upper surface is dark green with 6-9 evenly spaced parallel veins.  


Smooth twigs are greenish and mottled with purple in the first year, turning reddish brown or purplish in the second year. They grow singly or in multiples and are mostly branchless except for spreading branches on upper portion.  The bark is grayish and rough.  The shallow root system suckers to create colonies.


Wildlife Value:

Dogwoods are a host plant for 111 species of Lepidoptera larvae, such as spring azure butterflies, royal walnut moth, crocus geometer, Polyphemus moth (all pictured here in order mentioned), and 5 specialist moths, including diamondback epinotia. The flowers attract native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies. The fruits are eaten by wild turkeys, raccoons, deer, chipmunks, foxes, beavers and at least 36 species of birds. The twigs are browsed by rabbits and deer, promoting a more compact plant.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

The plant has been used to treat diarrhea, chronic malaria, hepatitis, kidney issues, and eczema.

Dogwood, Roundleaf, Cornus rugosa

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