12 Species of Dogwood Trees, Shrubs, and Subshrubs

Cornus Genus of Trees

Dogwood flowers
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Dogwoods are included in the Cornus genus and include trees, shrubs, and subshrubs that are native to Asia, Europe, and North America. Dogwoods are often categorized into four subgenera: Bethamidia, Chamaepericlymenum, Cornus, and Swida.

You can identify a dogwood by looking for leaves with veins that curve parallel to the margins (edges). Flowers may or may not feature large bracts like those of the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). After pollination, they produce a type of fruit known as a drupe. Many species have edible fruit, though not all actually taste good. Avoid the fruit of the Swida species, they can be poisonous to humans.

Dogwoods are also known for their opposite branching, a good characteristic for identification. Some species have branches that are yellow or red, which is an excellent addition of color for the winter landscape. The leaves also provide an autumn show.

  • 01 of 12

    Canadian Bunchberry

    Canadian Bunchberry
    Alan Majchrowicz/Getty Images

    The Canadian bunchberry is one of two subshrubs in this group. Bunchberries are the fastest plants in the world and fling out their pollen at astonishing speeds up to 15 miles per second. This plant has the potential to clone itself through rhizomes and spread throughout your yard.

    • Botanical name: Cornus canadensis
    • Other common names: Crackerberry, bearberry, low cornel, pudding berry, Canadian dwarf cornel, pigeonberry, bunchplum, bunchberry dogwood, creeping dogwood, squirrel berry, dwarf dogwood, dogwood bunchberry, ground dogwood
    • Native area: North America, Greenland, northeastern Asia
    • USDA zones: 2 to 7
    • Height: 2 to 12 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Chamaepericlymenum
  • 02 of 12

    Common Dogwood

    Common Dogwood
    Matt Anker/Getty Images

    This shrub shows off its green and red stems in the winter. You will likely need to prune it yearly (or perhaps even more) to keep it in check, as it can spread.

    • Botanical name: Cornus sanguinea
    • Other common names: Bloodtwig dogwood, European dogwood
    • Native area: Western Asia and Europe
    • USDA zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 6 to 20 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Swida
  • 03 of 12

    Cornelian Cherry

    Cornelian Cherry
    Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    The Cornelian cherry is one of the earliest trees to flower each year. You can harvest the fruit of this tree once it has ripened and fallen to the ground. The fruit can be used to make liquors, jams, desserts, pickles, and sauces.

    • Botanical name: Cornus mas
    • Other common names: European cornel
    • Native area: Southern Europe and southwest Asia
    • USDA zones: 5 to 8 (may grow in zone 4)
    • Height: 15 to 25 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Cornus
  • 04 of 12

    Flowering Dogwood

    Flowering dogwood
    Garden Photo World/Georgianna Lane/Getty Images

    When many people think of dogwoods, they are envisioning this species. Each set of flowers is surrounded by four bracts that can be white, pink, or red, depending on the variety. You can choose the flowering dogwood if you have a location with afternoon shade and acidic soil. This species and the Pacific dogwood are prone to getting dogwood anthracnose, which can be controlled by pruning away affected branches. It is the state tree of North Carolina.

    • Botanical name: Cornus florida
    • Native area: Eastern North America
    • USDA zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 15 to 40 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Benthamidia
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  • 05 of 12

    Kousa Dogwood

    Kousa Dogwood
    Masahiro Nakano/a.collectionRF/Getty Images

    The Kousa dogwood features an abundant display of flowers and fruit every year. It can be used in areas of drought. The bark features many lenticels. Prune away a few of the lower branches so that the trunk can receive more light, which causes it to change colors and feature spots of yellow and white on the brown bark.

    • Botanical name: Cornus kousa
    • Other common names: Chinese dogwood, Korean dogwood, Japanese dogwood
    • Native area: Eastern Asia
    • USDA zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Benthamidia
  • 06 of 12

    Northern Swamp Dogwood

    The northern swamp dogwood in a yard

    Look for this species to have new bark that is orange-brown each year. As the bark ages, it will fade to gray. The northern swamp dogwood features white flowers that produce white fruits. The pedicels are red. Like some of the other shrubby dogwoods, this species has the potential to spread by forming suckers.

    • Botanical name: Cornus racemosa
    • Other common names: Gray dogwood, panicled dogwood, gray dogwood, gray-stemmed dogwood
    • Native area: Eastern North America
    • USDA zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: 4 to 15 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Swida
  • 07 of 12

    Pacific Dogwood

    Picture of the Pacific dogwood

    The Pacific dogwood can handle areas with shade. It can also be drought-tolerant once the roots have had a full growing season of consistent watering to become established. Fruits on this species are reddish-orange. Watch out for dogwood anthracnose.

    • Botanical name: Cornus nuttallii
    • Other common names: Mountain dogwood, western flowering dogwood, mountain flowering dogwood
    • Native area: British Columbia, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
    • USDA zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: Usually 15 to 40 feet tall; can reach 75 feet or more
    • Subgenera: Benthamidia
  • 08 of 12

    Pagoda Dogwood

    Picture of the pagoda dogwood

    The common name of alternate-leaved dogwood gives you a major clue for the identification of this species; there are only a few species where the leaves are arranged alternately on the branch. The branches form in layers and the crown is flat, suggestive of a pagoda. Argentea is a beautiful variegated variety.

    • Botanical name: Cornus alternifolia
    • Other common names: Alternate-leaf dogwood, green osier, alternate-leaved dogwood
    • Native area: Eastern North America
    • USDA zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 15 to 35 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Swida
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  • 09 of 12

    Red Osier Dogwood

    Photo of Red Osier Dogwood

    This medium shrub will stand out in your landscape because the stems start turning red at the end of summer or beginning of fall. As time goes on, the shade keeps brightening until it becomes very red in winter, providing a perfect contrast to a snowy or bare landscape. The stems become green again in the spring.

    • Botanical name: Cornus sericea
    • Other common names: Red twig dogwood, dogberry tree, western dogwood, waxberry cornel, American dogwood, shoemack, redstem dogwood, poison dogwood, red dogwood, harts rouges, kinnikinnick, red willow, squawbush, red-rood, gutter tree, creek dogwood, red osier, redbrush, California dogwood, red-stemmed cornel
    • Native area: North America
    • USDA zones: 2 to 7
    • Height: Usually 6 to 12 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Swida
  • 10 of 12

    Rough Leaf Dogwood

    Picture of the rough leaf dogwood flower

    Feel the coarse hairs found on the leaves in this species and you will see why this is named the rough leaf dogwood. This is another Cornus species that may do well in your shadier spots, though there will be more flowers and fruit if it is planted in a location that receives full sunlight. It may also form colonies in your yard via suckers.

    • Botanical name: Cornus drummondii
    • Other common names: White cornel, Drummond's dogwood, cornel dogwood, roughleaf dogwood, small-flower dogwood
    • Native area: North America
    • USDA zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 10 to 15 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Swida
  • 11 of 12

    Stiff Dogwood

    Picture of the stiff dogwood

    The fruits on this shrub are a brilliant shade of blue. The small white flowers appear in clusters called cymes.

    • Botanical name: Cornus foemina
    • Other common names: Swamp dogwood, stiff cornel, English dogwood, gray dogwood
    • Native area: United States
    • USDA zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 15 to 25 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Swida
  • 12 of 12

    Swedish Cornel

    Photo of the Swedish cornel
    Ole Husby/Flickr

    The Swedish cornel is a subshrub that has dark purple flowers and white bracts. It grows best in moist spots and is often found in boggy areas.

    • Botanical name: Cornus suecica
    • Other common names: Bunchberry, dwarf cornel, Lapland cornel, Eurasian dwarf cornel, bog bunchberry, Eurasian bunchberry, dwarf Northern cornel
    • Native area: Europe, Asia, and North America
    • USDA zones: Hardy down to zone 2
    • Height: 8 feet tall
    • Subgenera: Chamaepericlymenum