Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Planters in front of Western Gallery Map

Why, one might ask, would WWU go to the trouble and expense of planting an imported eastern dogwood when the local variety grows wild everywhere you look? There are two answers. First, the flowering dogwood makes a better year-round display; spring white flowers, followed by leaves of a pleasingly delicate yellow-green shade, turning flaming red or reddish-purple in autumn. Flowering dogwood also produces interesting red fruit, vaguely resembling cherries (in shape and color, not taste). However, the second answer is probably more important. Our native wild dogwood (Pacific dogwood; Cornus nuttallii) resents domestication; plant it, prune it, water it, fertilize it - and nevertheless it sulks, and sometimes dies. Enjoy them in the wild; the dogwoods you see in gardens are nearly all imports.

Flowering dogwood is native to eastern North America, where it reaches a height of 40 ft. or more. According to Jacobson, early settlers called it "boxwood", for its hard wood, apparently used to construct boxes. It was introduced into cultivation in England as early as the late 18th century. There are many cultivars - Jacobson describes over 70, many of which have superior qualities for cultivation. Ours may be one such, but which one remains to be determined