Cornus foemina Mill.

Gray Dogwood


CC = Amb
CW = Amb
MOC = 66

© SRTurner

Family - Cornaceae

Habit - Shrub or small tree to 8 m, not rhizomatous.

Stems - Multiple from the base. Bark gray-brown, becoming gray-black, smooth or longitudinally fissured, the ridges becoming divided into thin irregular plates. Twigs deep red, often pale green abaxially, or completely green if shaded, sparsely to densely pubescent. Lenticels pale circular spots on new growth, often locally overlapping to form longitudinal bands.

Leaves - Opposite, simple, petiolate, well-distributed along branches. Petioles 5-15 mm, densely pubescent. Blades 5-12 cm long, 2-7 cm wide, broadly lanceolate to elliptic or ovate, rounded, angled, or short-tapered at the base, sharply pointed, the surfaces glabrous or sparsely to moderately pubescent with mostly appressed, straight, T-shaped hairs, the undersurface sometimes with microscopic white papillae and slightly roughened to the touch, the lateral veins 3 or 4 pairs, these relatively evenly spaced, the basal vein arising 1-2 mm from blade base.

Cornus_foemina_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Cornus_foemina_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Cornus_foemina_leaf2a.jpg Leaf abaxial surface.

Tiny T-shaped, strongly appressed hairs are visible in addition to minute white papillae.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Flat-topped or domed cymes 2-8 cm in diameter, the peduncles 15-45 mm. Branches and pedicels greenish yellow, turning red in fruit.

Cornus_foemina_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Cornus_foemina_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Hypanthia densely appressed-hairy. Sepals 4, 0.4-1 mm. Petals 4, cream, 2.6-3.8 mm. Stamens 4, alternating with petals, erect, exserted. Filaments to 4 mm long, whitish, glabrous. Anthers yellowish, 1.1 mm long. Style glabrous, whitish, 2.2 mm long. Style 2-3 mm long, relatively slender, not broadened toward the tip. Stigma capitate. Ovary inferior, 2-locular.

Cornus_foemina_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Cornus_foemina_calyces.jpg Hypanthia and calyces.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Globose drupes 4-7 mm in diameter, pale blue, or blue violet, often turning to white, on red stalks. Stone globose to oblong, 3-5 mm, slightly ribbed, the apex rounded.

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Bottomland forests, marshes, swamps, streambanks, pond margins, fens, seeps, wet ditches.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Cornus drummondii, Cornus racemosa.

Other info. - This shrub occurs mostly in the Bootheel region of Missouri, and across much the southeastern U.S. and Deep South. It is a denizen of wet places and, in addition to habitat preference, is recognized by having clustered stems, leaves with at most 4 pairs of lateral veins, and leaf lower surfaces having strongly appressed, typically T-shaped hairs.

The circumscription of Cornus species has been confusing and controversial, and may not be completely settled yet. The description here corresponds to the taxon Cornus foemina ssp. foemina in Yatskievych's Flora of Missouri. The other subspecies in that work, ssp. racemosa, has been relegated by most authors to its own species, C. racemosa.

Photographs taken at Mingo NWR, Stoddard County, MO, 5-23-2022 (SRTurner).