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What is a Chinese Dogwood?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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A Chinese dogwood is a deciduous tree that is native to eastern Asia. It is part of the Cornaceae plant family and features a rounded form with elliptical leaves. The Chinese dogwood is utilized as a specimen tree or planted in groves. There are several varieties of this tree including the gold star and milky way. Generally, the Chinese dogwood is relatively maintenance free and usually takes 7-10 years to bloom.

Scientifically, the Chinese dogwood is known as Cornus kousa. Gold star is one variety of this tree that features a gold strip down the center of the leaves. Another variety is milky way, which features a more dense fruit growth than the Chinese dogwood. Beni Fuji is a variety that is commonly cultivated for its reddish-pink flower bracts.

The Chinese dogwood is native to Japan, Korea, and China. The tree was first cultivated in 1907 by E. H. Wilson. It is adaptable to U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 5-8. A number of Chinese dogwood varieties have also been introduced in other countries.

Generally, the Chinese dogwood grows 30 feet (9 m) in height and spreads a similar length. The leaves are 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long and feature hairs on the underside of the leaves. In the fall, the leaves turn red or reddish purple.

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The small flowers are yellowish green and surrounded by white, pointed bracts. The bloom period usually starts in June and lasts for about six weeks. The bracts are 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) long. Green fruits develop after the flowers have fallen and gradually ripen to a red color.

Typically, the fruit is raspberry-shaped and is edible. The fruit is harvested for its flavorful taste, which is similar to banana, and the pulp is custard like. Depending on individual taste, the fruit is eatten raw or cooked.

Ornamentally, this tree is used in a variety of ways in different types of landscapes. As a small shrub, this dogwood looks great as a foundation plant, alongside houses. It is also perfect for beautifying blank walls or enhancing borders. The bark of older trees have a flaking appearance, and the fall foliage is a blend of colors.

The Chinese variety of dogwood requires fertile soil that is well draining to grow well. As a parking lot tree, the dogwood can thrive in full sunlight. If planted in an area with afternoon shade, the tree generally does better.

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