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What Is a Kousa Dogwood?

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  • Written By: Angie Pollock
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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Scientifically known as Cornus kousa, the kousa dogwood is a flowering deciduous tree native to several Asian countries including Japan, Korea, and China, and are often referred to by their country of origin. There are more than a dozen different cultivars of kousa dogwood grown around the world, including China girl, gold star, and autumn rose, to name a few. The trees average in size from about 10 to 30 feet (3 to 9 m) depending on the variety, and produce a variety of blooms and fruits depending on the type. While many dogwoods have problems with diseases, the kousa dogwood resists deadly fungal infections. Growing this variety of dogwood can be done successfully as long as the right location and shade is selected.

While the kousa dogwood generally reaches a midpoint of 20 feet (6 m), one of the smallest cultivars, the gold star, only reaches about 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m) at maturity. The foliage features opposite leaves which are about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in length, and flower clusters which average 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) long. The blooms generally appear in late spring as white and may change colors on some cultivars. The showy blooms attract a variety of wildlife including bees and butterflies.

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During the fall months, the kousa dogwood tree produces globular, red edible fruit that resemble raspberries. Some cultivars even produce fruit that exceed 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. The larger fruit, which are often used for making wine, tend to be tastier and sweeter than smaller-sized fruit. Squirrels and birds are also highly attracted to the sweet fruit.

Unlike some varieties of dogwood trees, kousa dogwoods are highly resistant to anthracnose; a fungal disease that can cause blotchy or dark areas on a tree’s leaves. The disease can affect a host of plants including vegetables, but it is also problematic for various trees such as dogwoods. Dogwood anthracnose was first reported in the United States during the 1970s, appearing in Washington State and spreading to North America’s east coast within 10 years. The disease appears to affect more North American native species than non-native dogwoods such as the kousa dogwood.

Although the kousa dogwood is native to parts of Asia, it has been successfully grown in other regions of the world for hundreds of years. In the United States, it is hardiest in USDA Zones 5-8. While the kousa dogwood can tolerate colder winters than some other varieties, it does not fare well in more hot or humid climates such as that found in the southeastern United States. The tree is often used as an ornamental for highlighting landscapes due to its showy display that change according to the seasons.

For planting and growing, kousa dogwoods grow best in locations that provide partial shade to full sun. Soil should be nutrient-rich, moist, and well-draining. Kousa dogwoods are not particularly drought tolerant and need regular moisture to reach its full potential. Pruning is done as needed and should only be performed during the tree’s dormant season.

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