Native to the eastern United States, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small tree that produces large white blooms in early spring and bright red fruits in the summer and early fall. There are many insects, birds, and mammals that use it as a food source.
The bright red fruits are an important food for wildlife in the late summer and early fall. Many songbirds eat the fruits including bluebirds, grosbeaks, tufted titmouse, cedar waxwings, northern flickers, American robins, northern cardinals, juncos, thrashers, and more. Woodpeckers, crows, and grackles also eat the fruits as do wild turkey and bobwhite quail.
Mammals such as mice, squirrels, black bear, skunks, and others also feed on the fruits. In addition to feeding on the berries in summer and fall, white-tailed deer will also browse the leaves and twigs. Rabbits will also browse on the leaves, shoots, and sprouts of flowering dogwood.
Small bees, flies, and butterflies are attracted to the flowers and will feed on the nectar and collect pollen.
In the woods, you’ll generally find this tree growing underneath tall hardwoods or pines or along the edges of forests. It does well in part shade but can also grow in full sun. The height of this small tree ranges from 15 to 30 feet and it grows in a broadly pyramid-like shape, sometimes having a flat top.
Flowering dogwoods bloom in late March and early April, generally just after the redbuds (Cercis canadensis) have finished blooming. The flowers are very tiny yellow-green blooms clustered in the center of the bright white ‘petals’ that are so visible. The white ‘petals’ are specialized leaves called bracts that server to draw attention to the flowers. While the flowers bloom for a short period of time, the white bracts will persist on the branches for a longer time.
In the fall, the leaves of the flowering dogwood produce bright red to purple colors. With the persistence of the red berries into fall, this tree adds nice color to the fall landscape.