Cornus wilsoniana

Common Name: dogwood 
Type: Tree
Family: Cornaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 16.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 33.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Street Tree, Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer


Grow in acidic, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Some afternoon shade is appreciated in hot summer climates such as the St. Louis area. Best performance occurs in cool summer climates. Provide consistent moisture and mulch root zone.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus wilsoniana, commonly called Wilson’s dogwood or ghost dogwood, is a deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows to 16-40’ tall (rarely in the wild to as much as 120’ tall). It is native to forested areas in central and western China. Opposite, elliptic, finely pubescent, gray-green leaves (to 4” long) with untoothed margins are tapered at both the tip (acuminate) and base. Tiny white flowers bloom in May in clusters (paniculate to corymbose cymes) which lack surrounding involucre bracts. Although individual flowers are small, a tree in full bloom is quite showy. Fruits (drupes) mature to purplish-black in September-October. Ghost-white bark on mature trees is usually quite showy (some say the most ornamental part of this species).

Genus name comes from the Latin word cornus meaning "horn", possibly in reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). May also be related to the Greek kerasos meaning "cherry".

Specific epithet honors E. H. “Chinese” Wilson (1876-1930) who collected this plant in China during the period of 1901-1905.

The common name of Wilson’s dogwood also honors E. H. “Chinese” Wilson.

The common name of ghost dogwood is in reference to the smooth, ornamentally attractive, ghost-white bark which is found on mature trunks of this tree.

The dogwood name is purportedly a corruption of the Old English dagwood or dagger wood in reference to the former use of its dense but slender woody stems for making daggers for skewering meat.


No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to leaf spot, root rot and canker. Scale, leaf miner and borers are occasional insect pests. This species is reportedly resistant to twig blight.


Spring flowers, late summer to early fall fruits, ghost-white bark, and distinctive branching give this dogwood year round interest. Attractively shaped crown makes this a good candidate for a lawn tree or street tree.