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Kousa Dogwood Prolongs Spring’s Beauty

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Cornus kousaPhoto by Robert E. Lyons

Cornus kousa
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Few plants herald spring like the common flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, but the plant that prolongs spring’s beauty is another dogwood, Cornus kousa. Bursting into bloom two to three weeks after the common dogwood, kousa is a stunning tree with its creamy white flowers and green foliage. The pointed or tapered white petals are actually modified leaves called bracts. They surround clusters of tiny yellow flowers and cover the tree for a striking spring display.

Kousa dogwood is in demand for its grower friendliness and is an excellent substitute for the common flowering dogwood, particularly since it is resistant to the dogwood borer and dogwood anthracnose problems that have plagued the common dogwoods in recent years.

This handsome small tree adds year-round beauty and is particularly attractive in smaller spaces and urban gardens. The bark is initially smooth and light brown, later exfoliating into small patches forming a tan and brown camouflage or mottled pattern. This mottled, exfoliating bark creates interest in wintertime. After bloom in mid-May, jousa’s red raspberry-kike fruit appears during late summer and hangs down among the green leaves. The edible fruit persists into autumn complementing the purplish-red fall foliage. The fruit is sweet and edible but somewhat mealy.

Cornus kousaPhoto by Robert E. Lyons

Cornus kousa
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Kousa grows best in partial shade and will tolerate full sun, growing to 15 to 25 feet with a 25-foot spread. It grows in climatic zones 5 to 8 and prefers being planted in a well-drained acidic soil.

The beloved kousa dogwood will stretch your imagination when you visit the diverse collection of cultivars at the JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) at NC State University. From the weeping forms of ‘Pendula” and ‘Lustgarten Weeping’, to the slightly rosy floral display of ‘Satomi’ and the subtle fall color interest of ‘Autumn Rose’, you will find that kousa dogwood takes a back seat to nobody! To learn more visit the JCRA website at

David Barkley