Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of H. Jean Bryan.

Red osier dogwood

Scientific name
Cornus sericea
Plant Family
After leaf fall, the bright red twigs of this medium to large deciduous shrub add color to the winter landscape.
Identification Hints

After leaf fall, the bright red twigs of this medium to large deciduous shrub add color to the winter landscape. Dogwoods have showy, white, four-petaled flowers and small white berries.

Did You Know?

Red-osier is a popular ornamental shrub, due to the bright red color of its twigs in winter. Some Native American peoples used the inner bark of red-osier dogwood stems in tobacco mixtures for their sacred pipe ceremonies. Other peoples used the twigs for dreamcatchers and fusions of the leaves to treat various ailments.

Leaves
Leaves are simple and opposite, 2 to 5 in long (5 to 12 cm) and 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Each leaf is oval-shaped with a pointed tip. Leaves have prominent, arc-shaped veins, usually in five pairs. The leaf is fuzzy and dark green on the top, and smooth on the bottom. In fall, leaves turn bright red to purple.
Flowers
Individual flowers are small, 0.2 to 0.4 in in diameter (5 to 10 mm) and dull white. Groups of flowers form flat-topped clusters 1.5 to 3 in diameter, (3 to 6 cm) that face up. Flowers bloom from May to June.
Fruits
A round drupe (like a cherry) that is white to pale blue, between ¼ and ½ in (approximately 5 mm) wide and long.
Bark
Smooth bark ranges from green to deep reds. Tends to be bright to deep red in the open, and greenish in the shade. Stems are red to purple-red from late summer until early fall, are a bright red throughout winter, and change to green in spring.
Habitat
Characteristic of swamps, floodplains, streams, and moist forests; requires full sunlight. Newfoundland to Manitoba, south to central United States.
States
AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY