Shrub 1 - 5 m tall Leaves: opposite, dark olive to grayish green above, paler beneath, 4 - 8 cm long, 1.5 - 4 cm wide, elliptic to lance-shaped with arching (arcuate) veins, non-toothed, sometimes having small hairs beneath. Leaves turn purplish red to red in fall. Flowers: borne in open, round-topped to pyramidal clusters on pinkish red stalks, each with four thin, white petals. Fruit: fleshy with one or two seeds in the center (drupe), borne on a persistent pinkish red stalk, white, 5 - 8 mm long, flattened spherical. Bark: gray to grayish brown with raised corky spots (lenticels), developing thin squared flakes. Twigs: tan to reddish brown, becoming gray with age. Flower buds: terminal, hairy, rounded. Vegetative buds: very tiny.
Similar species: Several dogwood species are shrubs with opposite leaf arrangement and arching leaf venation. The twigs and fruit are the best features for identifying these species. Cornus stolonifera has red to purplish red twigs that intensify in winter and flat- to round-topped clusters of white fruit. Cornus obliqua has purple to yellowish red twigs covered in dense hairs and clusters of light blue fruit. Cornus rugosa has light yellow to green twigs that may develop reddish purple patches, leaves that may be almost rounded, and clusters of light blue fruit.
Flowering: late May to early June
Habitat and ecology: Cornus racemosa is the most common dogwood in the Chicago Region. It forms colonies in wooded areas, with the exception of undisturbed mesic woods. It prefers open and disturbed areas, fencerows, borders of woods, open woods, and wet prairies.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: This dogwood provides food and shelter for many bird species.
Etymology: Cornus comes from the Latin word, cornu, meaning horn, referring to its hard wood. Racemosa refers to the raceme-like flower clusters.
Author: The Morton Arboretum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
More or less frequent in the lake area, becoming rare or absent in the southern counties. It grows in both dry and wet places, preferring drained marshes. It is often found in moist or dry sandy or gravelly soil along roadsides and fences, in clearings, and in low ground about lakes and streams.
Shrub 1-5 m, often forming thickets; twigs glabrous, at first green, soon becoming tan and eventually gray-brown; old bark mostly smooth and gray; pith white (tan); lvs lanceolate to elliptic, mostly 4-8 cm, a third to half as wide, abruptly acuminate, cuneate at base, often papillose-whitened beneath, sparsely strigose to glabrous on both sides, with 3 or 4(5) lateral veins to a side; infls often very numerous, convex to often pyramidal and paniculiform; fr at first leaden, becoming white (light blue), 5-8 mm, on reddish pedicels; 2n=22. Moist soil, woods, thickets, roadsides, and streambanks; Me. and s. Que. to s. Man., s. to Va., s. Ill., and Mo., adjoining but only slightly overlapping the range of no. 6 [Cornus stricta Lam.]; the two might well be considered vars. of one sp. (C. paniculata; ? C. foemina, a doubtful name)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.