Cornus nuttallii

Common Name: mountain dogwood 
Type: Tree
Family: Cornaceae
Native Range: Western North America
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 15.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: Showy white bracts
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Black Walnut

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. Benefits from a 2-4” mulch which will help keep roots cool and moist in summer. Established plants have some drought tolerance. This tree is somewhat similar in physical appearance to Eastern flowering dogwood (C. florida). It performs well in the western U.S., but unfortunately does not prosper in the eastern U.S.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus nuttallii, commonly known as Pacific dogwood, Canadian dogwood or mountain dogwood, is a medium size deciduous tree, although sometimes a tall shrub, that typically grows to 15-40’ (infrequently to 70’) tall with a rounded to conical crown. It is native to coastal regions west of the Cascades from southern British Columbia to southern California with a small disjunct population in northern Idaho. It is commonly found along stream banks and in low-elevation coniferous, hardwood and mixed coastal forests and on slopes, predominantly in areas of 3000’ to 5000’ in elevation. Pacific dogwood is the western version of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) which is native to eastern North America. One of the main differences between these two species is in the number of showy bracts on each flower (6 on Pacific dogwood and 4 on flowering dogwood). Pacific dogwood features: (a) horizontal tiered branching, (b) elliptic to ovate or obovate dark green leaves (to 4 1/2” long) which turn attractive shades of yellow to orange to red in fall, (c) large flowers which bloom mid to late spring, each flower consisting of a small cluster of tiny purple-green flowers (to 3/4” diameter) encircled by six large, showy, white, petal-like bracts (each to 3” long), and (d) fruits (1/ 3” long) which mature to a showy bright red or orange.

Genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn in probable reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry.

Specific epithet honors Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), American ornithologist and artist.

Problems

Pacific dogwood, when stressed, is susceptible to a rather large number of disease problems the most serious of which is dogwood anthracnose. Plants are also susceptible to leaf spot, crown canker, root rot and leaf and twig blight. Stressed trees also become vulnerable to borers. Leaf miner and scale are less serious potential insect pests.

Garden Uses

Popular as a specimen or small grouping on residential property around homes, near patios or in lawns. Also effective in woodland, bird or native plant gardens.