Silky Dogwood

Cornus amomum, commonly called silky dogwood, is native to North America from Newfoundland to Florida. It prefers average to medium wet soil that is well-drained and slightly acidic. A layer of mulch should be used around the base to keep the roots cool and moist in summer. Silky dogwood may form dense thickets when branches at the base are allowed to root. Twigs and leaf undersides have silky hairs, hence the common name. This dogwood typically grows 6 -12 feet tall with an open-rounded form. Tiny yellowish-white flowers in flat-topped clusters bloom in late spring to early summer. Flowers give way to attractive berry-like drupes that change from white to blue as they ripen in August. Silky dogwood is susceptible to scale. Additional insect pests include borers and leaf miner. Infrequent disease problems include leaf spot, crown canker, blight, root rot, and powdery mildew.

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. This dogwood is also commonly called swamp dogwood in reference to habitat and kinnkinnik (tobacco) in reference to a prior use of shrub bark by Native Americans as tobacco.

Silky dogwood attracts pollinators and provides habitat for wildlife. It is the host plant for the spring/summer Azure butterflies. Butterflies seek nectar at its blooms. Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouse, quail, turkey, chipmunks, black bear, fox, white-tailed deer, skunks, and squirrels. The foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer. This dogwood supports the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilis, Andrena (Gonandrena) integra, and Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia. Silky dogwood is a good shrub for moist to wet areas in the garden. It is not considered overly ornamental. It is at home in a rain garden, native garden, or pollinator garden.

Silky dogwood will be planted in the Brunswick County Botanical Garden this spring.

Information and photos by Jeanne Pavero