201. Tuscawilla Park - Flowering Dogwood

FLOWERING DOGWOOD
(Cornus florida)

Dogwoods are found over most of the eastern United States.  Marion County is about as far south as they’ll survive.  Morning sun and afternoon shade is their preferred environment with moist soil.  

Flowering Dogwood grows 20 to 35 feet tall and spreads 25 to 30 feet. It can be trained with one central trunk or as a picturesque multi-trunked tree.  The leaves are shaped a bit like a tear-drop.  At first glance, the edge of the leaf looks smooth.  But take a magnifying lens to it, and you’ll see it has very tiny “teeth” all around.   These interesting features alone make the tree “worthy” of the finest garden.  But the show-stopper is, of course, the blooms.  

When you find a Dogwood in bloom, gently examine the “flower”. It’s in the center is the bloom - the little yellowish clusters.    The 4 showy petals, usually white in Florida, are called bracts.  Their function is to advertising to pollinators.  Since the flowers themselves are so small, the bracts shout “Here we are… come pollinate us!”   They certainly succeed, as many tiny little bees and other insect pollinators can be seen buzzing around a tree in bloom.   And they certainly get our attention as well. 

 The fall color varies but most Dogwood leaves will turn red to maroon. The bright red fruits are often eaten by birds.