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The different dogwood varieties include flowering dogwoods, Japanese or Kousa dogwood, Chinese dogwood, Pagoda dogwood, and Pacific dogwood. Dogwoods fall into the Cornus genus of deciduous trees and into the cornaceae family, which is mostly specific to dogwoods. In deciduous trees, the leaves fall off during autumn and new growth appears in the spring. Though the vast majority of dogwoods are deciduous, there are a few varieties that are evergreen, which means they do not shed their leaves.
Flowering dogwood varieties are indigenous to the eastern United States and can grow up to 30 feet (9.1 m) tall. Known as Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood produces white flowers and blooms in the spring. The foliage turns from green to red in the fall before falling off and also produces red berries in the fall. Botanist and commercial growers have cultivated additional species of the Cornus florida that will produce pink or red blossoms instead of white. The most popular cultivars are Apple Blossom and Cherokee Chief and both grow best in US plant hardiness zones 5 to 8.
Kousa dogwood varieties are native to Asia and grow between 24 and 36 feet (7.3 and 11 m) tall. The popular name for this type of dogwood is the Japanese dogwood and the scientific name is Cornus kousa. The Japanese dogwood has a straighter trunk than the flowering dogwood and there are typically more full white blossoms. The leaves do turn red and the berries that form in the fall are a popular source of food for birds. In addition to the true Cornus kousa variety, Japanese dogwoods have been cultivated to include Summer Stars and Lustgarten Weeping.
The Chinese dogwood varieties are very similar to the Japanese types and also grows to approximately 30 feet (9.1) tall. The Cornus chinensis differs from the Japanese variety in the both the number and size of the flowers it produces. The most popular Chinese dogwood cultivar is the Milky Way, which is prized for the abundance of large creamy white blossoms.
The Pagoda dogwood varieties are smaller than other types of dogwoods and grow to a maximum height of 20 feet (6 m). Known as Cornus alternifolia, the Pagoda dogwood is a slow growing tree that produces clusters of lacy yellow-white flowers instead of the traditional four petal style. The berries are also different than other varieties and mature into a dark blue-black instead of red.
The Pacific dogwood varieties are native to the western United States and can grow as much as 75 feet (22.8 m) tall. Known as Cornus nuttallii, the Pacific dogwood produces five petal white flowers with a showy yellow center. The berries are a large pinkish-red which produce hundreds of seeds but are not often eaten by birds.
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