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Red Osier Dogwood
(Cornus stolonifera or Cornus sericea)

by Sally Moore

Red Osier DogwoodFamily: Cornaceae

Habitat: Wet or moist open areas

Description: Red Osier Dogwood is a medium-sized shrub (approx. 6-10’ tall) that has an upright, spreading habit of many twigs and branches. It grows by sending out underground stems (or stolons) from the parent plant (hence the name). The young stems emerge green-red, and turn bright red to deep blood-red in the fall and winter of their first year, creating a striking display against snow. Then, as they age, the stems turn gray. This dogwood’s leaves grow opposite one another and have an oblong, somewhat oval shape. Spring leaves are bright reddish green, changing to a medium green in the summer and orange-red in the fall. This handsome shrub blooms in June with creamy white, flat-topped flowers, which turn into white to bluish-white berries loved by birds.

Landscape Uses: Red Osier Dogwood has year-round beauty and many uses in the garden. It is great for massing or creating a screen, windbreak or formal hedge.

Because it sends out suckers, its habit is thick with branches, providing ideal bird habitat. It also can be used to control erosion on slopes through its mass of underground stems. This plant also makes a beautiful single specimen in the garden against a light-colored wall or fence. It prefers wet to moist, slightly acidic soils, but will adapt well to dryer, more basic sites. It is easily transplanted and only requires full sun to produce flowers and bright red winter stems.

This plant also responds well to pruning, allowing the gardener to maintain a smaller-sized shrub and helping the plant to produce new, showy red twigs.

This is an excellent plant for all seasons.

Article reprinted from the Winter 1999 issue of the Ann Arbor Wild Ones Newsletter. Copyright © 1999 Wild Ones–Natural Landscapers, Ltd.

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