Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Cornus florida


SPECIES: Cornus florida
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. A. 1991. Cornus florida. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : CORFLO SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : COFL COMMON NAMES : flowering dogwood cornel boxwood arrowwood white cornel Cornelian tree TAXONOMY : Flowering dogwood is a member of the subgenus Cynoxylon within the family Cornaceae [27,61]. The currently accepted scientific name is Cornus florida L. [49]. Earlier taxonomists recognized several subspecies or varieties, but most are no longer accepted. The following varieties are currently recognized by many authorities [60,65]: Cornus florida var. urbiniana Wang. Cornus florida var. florida Cornus florida var. pringlei These varieties are distinguished primarily on the basis of differences in floral and vegetative morphology. Several forms, including those with pink or yellow flowers and red or yellow fruit, have been identified [24,61]. Commonly recognized forms are as follows [79]: Cornus florida f. rubra (Weston) Palmer & Steyeim. Cornus florida f. xanthocarpa Rehder Cornus florida f. pendula (Dipp.) Schelle Cornus florida f. pluribracteata Rehder Flowering dogwood is not known to hybridize with any other species [65]. LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : See OTHER STATUS OTHER STATUS : Flowering dogwood has been placed on the protected list in many of the states in which it occurs [61].


SPECIES: Cornus florida
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Flowering dogwood grows from central Florida northward to southwestern Maine [32,65,87] and extends westward through southern Ontario to central Michigan, central Illinois, Missouri, southeastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas [57,65]. The variety urbiniana (or subspecies) is found in the mountains of Nuevo Leon and Veracruz in eastern Mexico [27,65,79]. The form xanthocarpa occurs in parts of New York [79]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES39 Prairie STATES : AL AR CT DE FL GA IN IL KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MS MO NH NJ NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VT WV ON MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K083 Cedar glade K095 Great Lakes pine forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K103 Mixed mesophytic forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 23 Eastern hemlock 44 Chestnut oak 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 53 White oak 60 Beech - sugar maple 70 Longleaf pine 75 Shortleaf pine 80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 110 Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Flowering dogwood commonly grows as a scattered understory species in many eastern deciduous or coniferous forests. It has been identified as and important understory dominant or codominant in several eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and white oak (Quercus alba) communities. Spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) has been listed as a codominant. Flowering dogwood is included as an indicator or dominant in the following community types (cts) classifications: Area Classification Authority SC general veg. cts Jones 1990 Shen. Nat'l. Park, VA general veg. cts Hall & Kuss 1989


SPECIES: Cornus florida
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : The brownish wood of flowering dogwood is hard, strong, heavy, fine grained, and shock resistant [9,22,61,87]. It was formerly used for shuttles in the textile industry, and has also been used for tool handles, charcoal, wheel cogs, mauls, hay forks, and pulleys [61]. The wood is occasionally used to make specialty items such as golf club heads, turnery, roller-skate wheels, jeweler's blocks, knitting needles, and woodcut blocks [9,61,87]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Fruit: Flowering dogwood is a valuable species for wildlife. Its fruit is readily eaten by many songbirds including the hermit, olive-back, and gray-cheeked thrushes, veery, northern cardinal, white-throated sparrow, tufted titmouse, towhees, grosbeaks, thrashers, bluebirds, and juncos [4,24,38,63,97]. The fruit is particularly important to the American robin. Flocks often move from the forest edge to the interior as berries are depleted [4]. The pileated woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, common crow, common grackle, and starling also seek out flowering dogwood fruit [24]. Value of fruit to upland game birds is rated as good [13]. In the Missouri Ozarks, flowering dogwood fruit is particularly important to the wild turkey from September to February [31]. Berries are readily eaten by the eastern chipmunk, white-footed mouse, gray fox, gray squirrel, black bear, beaver, white-tailed deer, skunks, and other mammals [31,65,91]. Browse: Beaver occasionally feed on flowering dogwood browse [31] and sprouts are often heavily browsed by rabbits [65]. In southwestern Michigan, browse is preferred by cottontail rabbits during the winter [31] and in parts of Pennsylvania, flowering dogwood is considered an important deer browse [12]. Deer utilization has reached 25 to 35 percent in parts of southeastern Texas [55]. PALATABILITY : Flowering dogwood is fairly palatable to deer in southeastern Texas [54]. Palatability may be somewhat higher in parts of Pennsylvania [12]. The fruit of flowering dogwood is highly palatable to a wide variety of birds and mammals. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : The nutrient value of flowering dogwood varies significantly by plant part, site history [see Fire Management Considerations], phenology, and soil moisture levels [19,54]. Browse: Leaves of flowering dogwood are high in calcium, fat, and fluorine [31,65]. Leaves were found to contain 1.72 percent calcium, and twigs 1.44 percent [31]. Fluorine content of leaves was 72 p/m in June but increased to 103 p/m by October [65]. Selected nutrient values for flowering dogwood browse on unburned sites were reported as follows [54]: (percent measured at 15 percent moisture level) dates protein fat fiber N-free extract ash Ca spring 10.26 3.82 13.54 51.22 6.16 2.04 summer 6.49 5.61 13.61 51.57 7.72 2.76 fall 5.12 6.84 15.82 48.41 8.13 2.90 winter 4.49 4.30 21.85 48.23 6.13 2.01 Nutrient content of foliage has been measured as follows [65]: K P Ca Mg S B Cu Fe Mn Zn oven-dry (mg/kg of foliage) - ppm (mg/kg) 4,000 1,800 27,000 3,000 3,800 23 7- 240- 30- 3- 11,000 3,200 42,000 5,000 7,000 9 380 50 28 Fruit: Fruit of flowering dogwood is high in calcium and fats [65]. COVER VALUE : Flowering dogwood provides good cover for many wildlife species [31]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Flowering has been planted on strip-mined lands in Indiana [10] and grows as volunteers on surface-mined lands in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma [92]. Flowering dogwood can be propagated by seed, root cuttings, layering, and grafting [9,31]. Seed may be planted immediately or stratified for spring plantings [9]. Cleaned seed averages approximately 4,500 per pound (9,920/kg) [65]. Summer softwood cuttings, winter hardwood cuttings, grafts, suckers, and budding can be used to propagate flowering dogwood [65]. Flowering dogwood can be difficult to transplant [91]. Seedlings with a root ball are preferred over bareroot transplants; plants at the beginning of the third growing season are generally best suited for transplanting [65]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Flowering dogwood is highly valued as an ornamental and was first cultivated in 1731 [9]. Showy blossoms and attractive fall foliage contribute to its year-round beauty. It is widely used in landscaping and street plantings [87]. At least 20 cultivars are now available [65]. Popular cultivars include 'Sweetwater Red,' 'Silveredge,' 'White Cloud,' 'Spring Song,' 'Gigantea' [61], and 'Welchii' which is characterized by unique yellow and red variegated leaves [65]. Some Native American peoples made a scarlet dye from the roots of flowering dogwood [61]. Teas and quinine substitutes were made from the bark [61]. Plants contain cornine which is used medicinally in parts of Mexico [27]. The bright red fruits are poisonous to humans [65]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Chemical control: Flowering dogwood is moderately difficult to kill with herbicides [51,66,68,83]. It is intermediately resistant to glyphosate [95]. Winter treatments are generally less effective than summer treatments [51]. Good results have been obtained with directed sprays of Garlon. Mechanical treatment: Flowering dogwood typically sprouts vigorously after stems are cut [11]. Plants cut in July or early August tend to produce the shortest sprouts and smallest sprout clumps. Three years after treatment, sprout clumps originating from midsummer cuts averaged 2.5 feet (0.8 m) shorter and 1.5 feet (0.5 m) narrower than those from winter cuts [11]. Silviculture: Flowering dogwood is typically more abundant in lightly cut stands than in clearcuts [16]. Loftis [58] reported increases in numbers following shelterwood treatments. In upland oak forests, greatest abundance is often reached in unthinned stands [42]. Damage: Flowering dogwood can be killed by drought or flooding [31]. It is potentially sensitive to ozone damage [78]. Insects/diseases: Flowering dogwood is susceptible to many insects, including the dogwood borer, flat-headed borer, dogwood twig borer, twig girdler, and dogwood scale [65]. Flowering dogwood is now seriously threatened by dogwood blight, also known as dogwood decline [104,94], which has affected large numbers of trees from New England to Virginia [85,94]. The primary cause is believed to be the dogwood anthracnose fungus, although a combination of factors may be involved [104,85]. Unfavorable environmental factors such as drought or acid rain may weaken trees, predisposing them to dogwood decline [104]. The dogwood borer may play a similar role [94]. Some experts see little hope of saving flowering dogwood in the wild [85].


SPECIES: Cornus florida
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Flowering dogwood is a multibranched shrub or small tree that commonly reaches 16 to 49 feet (5-15 m) in height [31,76]. In the South, plants may grow 40 feet (12 m) tall with a d.b.h. of 18 inches (46 cm) [61], but in the North, flowering dogwood more often grows as a multibranched shrub, reaching heights of 10 to 13 feet (3-4 m) [86]. Flowering dogwood is characterized by a broad, rounded crown [21,32]. Several trunks may develop from a single root crown [76]. Rooting depths are generally shallow and often less than 3 feet (1 m) [1]. The large, simple, opposite leaves generally average 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm) in length [61]. Fruit is a glabrous, smooth, yellow to red, berrylike drupe [87] that averages 0.6 inch (1.5 cm) in length and are borne in clusters of two to six [32,79]. Flowering dogwood fruit tends to be heavier at higher latitudes [99]. Each drupe contains one to two cream-colored, ellipsoid seeds averaging 0.3 to 0.4 inch (7-9 mm) in length [33,87]. Important distinctions between commonly recognized varieties and forms are summarized below [60,65,79]: var. urbiniana - bracts narrower, twigs grayer, with larger drupes. var. pringlei - bracts fused. f. xanthocarpa - drupes yellow. f. rubra - red involucral bracts. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (mesophanerophyte) Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (microphanerophyte) Burned or Clipped State: Chamaephyte Burned or Clipped State: Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Flowering dogwood reproduces through seed as well as by vegetative means. Seed: Plants grown from seed often produce seed as early as 6 years of age [9,65,73]. Six-year old sprouts with a diameter of 0.75 inch (19 mm) and height of 4 feet (1.2 m) have also reportedly produced seed [65]. Good seed crops are produced every 2 years, with crop failures likely in 1 of 4 years [56]. Pack [71] reported that 71 percent of all plants bore fruit during a single year, with average yields of 0.50 quart (0.4 l). An annual average of 1,417 fruits per acre (3,500/ha) was reported in oak-hickory stands and up to 27,530 per acre (68,000/ha) in openings [14]. Flowers are pollinated by beetles, bees, butterflies, and flies [24]. Seeds are dispersed by birds, mammals, and gravity [65]. Germination: Flowering dogwood is characterized by delayed germination due to embryo dormancy [65]. Under natural conditions, seeds overwinter before germination occurs [72], and some seeds do not germinate until the second spring [9]. Warm, moist stratification for 60 days followed by long periods (120 days) of cold temperatures increases germination [5,9]. Chemical or mechanical scarification can also promote germination. Results of specific germination tests are as follows [9]: test conditions germ. energy germ. light duration amount period capacity 8 hrs. 60 days 14-45% 15-20 days 35 % Seedling establishment: Adequate soil moisture is necessary for successful establishment and growth of flowering dogwood seedlings [44]. Seedling survival is generally best on moist, rich, well-drained soils [56] and at stand margins [65]. Vegetative regeneration: Flowering dogwood often sprouts vigorously after plants are cut or burned. Plants sprout best after winter fellings; those cut in midsummer produce the fewest stump sprouts [31,65] [see Management Considerations - mechanical treatment]. Greater sprout height growth has been correlated with increasing stump diameter [65]. An increase of 0.3 feet (9 cm) has been reported for every 1 inch (2.5 cm) increase in stump diameter. Sprouting from the root crown has been reported after fire. Multiple stems commonly develop from a single surviving root crown [33]. Flowering dogwood also reproduces through layering [65]. Epicormic branching has been reported [28]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Flowering dogwood grows in mesic deciduous woods, on floodplains, slopes, bluffs, and in ravines [33,87,100]. It also occurs in gum swamps, along fencerows, and in oldfield communities [15]. Growth is often poor on dry, upland slopes and ridges [65]. Flowering dogwood grows as an understory associate in many hardwood and conifer forests throughout eastern North America [65]. Plant associates: In addition to those identified in the Distribution and Occurrence slot, common overstory associates include scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), southern red oak (Q. falcata), post oak (Q. stellata), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), slash pine (P. elliottii), Virginia pine (P. virginiana), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), red maple (Acer rubrum) [37,65]. Understory associates are numerous and often include serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), and brambles (Rubus spp.) [8,46]. Soils: Flowering dogwood occurs on soils that vary from moist, deep soils to light-textured, well-drained upland soils [65] but most commonly occurs on coarse to medium-textured acidic soils [2,86]. Abundance generally increases with better drainage and lighter soil textures. It is often virtually absent on heavy, poorly drained soils [65]. Soil pH generally ranges from 6 to 7 [28]. Common parent materials include gravel, sandstone, and limestone [87]. Elevation: In the southern Appalachians, flowering dogwood grows from sea level to 4,931 feet (0-1,500 m) [22] but does best on flats and lower or middle slopes from 1,000 to 4,000 feet (304-1,219 m) in elevation [28]. In the Great Smoky Mountains flowering dogwood grows below 3,000 feet (<914 m) [96]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Flowering dogwood is very tolerant of shade and is capable of persisting beneath a forest canopy [65]. Although it commonly grows as a suppressed understory tree, it is also important in gap closure and grows in several strata in stands with a multicanopied structure [93]. Flowering dogwood is physiologically plastic [93] and can also occupy seral communities such as certain clearcuts and oldfield communities [3,64]. It also grows in seral, fire-maintained sandhill communities [67]. McDonnell [64] observed that flowering dogwood was absent until the third year after fields were abandoned but continued to invade through the twelfth year of the study. Scattered patches of flowering dogwood are common in young fields [64]. Because seed is primarily bird-dispersed, seedling concentrations often occur beneath powerlines and poles. Flowering dogwood occurs in climax magnolia-beech, magnolia-holly hammock communities, and southern mixed hardwood stands in the South [26,67,75]. It is present in old-growth white oak forests of southwestern Pennsylvania and in old-growth beech-oak stands of South Carolina [47]. In parts of the South, flowering dogwood commonly grows in pine stands which are seral to climax hardwood forests [28]. Billings [7] reported that it commonly appears when shortleaf pine stands are 40 to 50 years old. Flowering dogwood is typically an important transitional species as pine is replaced by hardwoods in southern mixed hardwood forests, but has been slow to reinvade these types of stands in central Florida [41]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Vegetatative growth occurs throughout most of the summer but may cease during periods of adverse weather conditions [56]. In a Massachusetts study, seedlings grew from April 24 through September 4, although 90 percent of the total growth took place from May 15 through August 18 [65]. Growth was most rapid during the first week of August [65]. Laboratory tests indicate that short day lengths can force plants into premature dormancy [28]. Rapid diameter growth typically lasts 80 to 90 days [28]. New floral and vegetative buds become evident in August, develop somewhat during the summer months, remain dormant through the winter, and expand the following spring [36]. Flowers develop with [86,87] or before the leaves [61]. In Ohio, Gorchov [103] reported a mean average of 138 days between flowering and fruit ripening. Flowering typically occurs in mid-March in the South and as late as May in the North [65]. Flowering and fruiting dates by geographic location are as follows: Location Flowering Fruiting Authority FL Panhandle April-June ---- Clewell 1985 Great Plains March-May ---- Great Plains Flora Association 1986 NC, SC March-April Sept.-Oct. Radford & others 1968 n-c Plains April-May late Sept. Stephens 1973 New England May 8-June 12 ---- Seymour 1985 ON late May Aug.-Sept. Soper & Heimburger 1982 TX late March-early May Sept. Simpson 1988, Lesser & Wistendahl 1974 WV ---- Sept. Pack 1942 Seed dispersal occurs from mid-October to November or later [56]. In West Virginia, latest fruit persistence was recorded on December 2; in Texas, some seed persisted until January [56]. Leaves turn a deep red in late September [87] and leaf fall occurs from early October to early November [28].


SPECIES: Cornus florida
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Flowering dogwood is well adapted to periodic fire [50]. Plants commonly sprout from the root crown after aboveground vegetation is damaged or destroyed. Seedling establishment by means of bird and mammal-dispersed seed is also commonly observed. Flowering dogwood can persist in some fire-maintained seral communities [67]. In the southern Appalachians, vegetative shifts toward scarlet oak, hickories, red maple, sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and flowering dogwood have been reported after fire where preburn communities were dominated by yellow poplar, chestnut oak, northern red oak (Quercus rubra), and white oak [29]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2


SPECIES: Cornus florida
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Flowering dogwood has been variously described as a fire-tolerant [53] and fire-intolerant species [34]. Its bark is among the thinnest of all eastern trees [40], and mature individuals are readily damaged by fire [65]. Approximately 50 percent of all flowering dogwood stems were top-killed by fire in south-central New York [89] and 58 percent mortality was reported after a prescribed burn in a 22-year old loblolly pine plantation in Tennessee [101]. All aboveground portions of the plants died within 1 year of a fire in the Northeast [31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : Hodgkins [43] observed that fire-caused mortality in small hardwoods is related to diameter, season of burn, weather, frequency of fire, and the amount of heat received at the ground line. In relatively hot, dry portions of eastern Texas, flowering dogwood was killed by winter, spring, and fall burns repeated after 2 years [43]. Hot annual summer fires may be necessary to kill small hardwoods in moist areas of the Southeast. Gill and Healy [31] reported that flowering dogwood can survive infrequent low severity winter fires when plants are at least 10 to 15 feet (3-5 m) in height. Fire-caused mortality of flowering dogwood is correlated with the amount of heat received at the cambium. The mean time required for the cambium to reach lethal temperatures (approximately 140 degrees F [60 degrees C]) has been reported as follows [39]: bark thickness seconds required for cambium (in inches) to reach 140 degrees F 0.20 30.4 0.30 59.4 0.40 126.2 PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Flowering dogwood usually sprouts profusely from the stump or root crown after plants are top-killed or damaged by fire [31,65]. Specific postfire response is related to fire severity and intensity, season of burn, site factors, and fire frequency. Postfire recovery is generally more rapid after surface fires than after crown fires [70] [see Qualification and Discussion of Plant Response to Fire]. In south-central New York, Swan [89] reported an average of 7.2 sprouts per top-killed stem. Postfire increases in sprout numbers have been reported in oak-hickory stands of Missouri and in upland hardwood stands of northern Alabama [45,59,65]. Prefire frequency of flowering dogwood was measured at 1, with stem densities of 153 per acre (378/ha). Ten years after fire, frequency had climbed to 9, with stem densities of 267 per acre (660/ha) [59]. Increases in stem density were recorded after 2 burns in an oak-pine stand of Kentucky [98]. However, frequent fires at short intervals can reduce the relative number of flowering dogwood stems. Comparisons of flowering dogwood on an annually burned plot and on an adjacent plot left undisturbed for 15 years are as follows [23]: # stems/acre rel. dom. % rel. dens. % freq. % 15 yr. 115 2 73 5 annual burn 8 < 1 13 7 DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Cover: The cover of flowering dogwood was estimated at 33.7 percent of the total basal area on unburned plots in a loblolly pine community of North Carolina [70]. After a surface fire, crown cover was reduced to 14.6 percent of the total basal area and accounted for only 10.2 percent after a crown fire. Specific results are as follows [70]: density % freq. % basal area unburned 13.1 100 4.47 surface fire 7.3 80 0.80 crown fire 10.6 90 0.70 Fruit/seed production: Landers [53] reported that fruit production may be greater during the first year after fire. Average fruit yields were as follows after a winter prescribed burn in the Southeast [88]: 1973 1975 (preburn) (1 yr. after burn) burn 0.86 30.75 control 1.12 9.21 On the George Washington National Forest, West Virginia, a spring prescribed fire increased total flowering dogwood density in a mixed-hardwood forest. Average flowering dogwood seedling densities before fire and in postfire year 5 were 605 and 737 seedlings/acre, respectively; flowering dogwood sprout densities were 1,158 sprouts/acre before and 1,553 sprouts/acre 5 years after the fire. See the Research Paper of Wendel and Smith's [104] study for details on the fire prescription and fire effects on flowering dogwood and 6 other tree species. Cushwa and others [17] reported postfire decreases in seed production in Georgia. The Research Project Summary Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and eastern white pine stand in Michigan provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including flowering dogwood, that was not available when this species review was written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY

References for species: Cornus florida

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