Cornus elliptica 'Elsbry' EMPRESS OF CHINA
Common Name: dogwood 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Cornaceae
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White bracts
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained, sandy soils in full sun to part shade. This tree is winter hardy to USDA Zone 6 or 7. If planted in the St. Louis area, it should be sited in a protected location.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus elliptica is an evergreen to semi-evergreen dogwood that is native to China. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1980 by Ted R. Dudley of the U.S. National Arboretum. It is a small flowering tree that grows 15-20’ tall. It features thick, glossy, bright green leaves (to 3” long) that turn purplish (sometimes with inward-curling margins) in winter. Leaves drop off in spring as the new growth appears. The showy parts of the dogwood “flower” are the four, pointed, petal-like, white bracts (1.5-2” across) that surround a center cluster of insignificant, yellowish-green, true flowers. The bracts are narrow and, as in the case of the Kousa dogwood, distinctively pointed. Unlike most other dogwoods, this tree blooms in early summer. Flowers are followed by berry-like fruits (to 1” diameter) which mature to red. Fruits are technically edible, but are usually left for the birds. Cornus elliptica was originally designated as C. kousa var. angustata. It has also been called Cornus capitata var. angustata and Cornus angustata.

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 means elliptical.

‘Elsbry’, commonly marketed today under the trade name of EMPRESS OF CHINA, was introduced into commerce by John Elsley of Wayside Gardens in 1993. Elsley reportedly developed this tree in his garden from a specimen he obtained from a Greenwood South Carolina nursery. This cultivar is particularly noted for its glossy evergreen foliage, vigorous growing habit, abundant late spring to early summer production of white-bracted flowers, attractive late summer to fall red fruits, and excellent resistance to powdery mildew and leaf/stem anthracnose. U.S. Patent PP14,537 was issued February 17, 2004.

Problems

No known serious insect or disease problems. It does not appear to suffer from the anthracnose problems that have devastated planting of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) in some geographic areas. Winter hardiness is a significant problem for the St. Louis area.

Uses

A beautiful flowering tree. Plant as a specimen or in small groupings on residential property around homes, near patios or in lawns. Also effective in shrub borders, woodland gardens, bird gardens or naturalized areas.