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Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zone
Zones 3B, 4-9, 14-20
Partial Sun
Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Cornus nuttallii

Pacific Dogwood, Western Dogwood
Cornaceae
Deciduous, Trees, Decorative fruit or berries, Flowers

CORNUS

All dogwoods offer attractive foliage and blossoms; some have spectacular fruit or winter bark. Leaves of many types turn brilliant colors in fall. What appear to be flower petals in many dogwoods are actually bracts—petal-like modified leaves. These surround the inconspicuous true flowers.

Cornus nuttallii (photo courtesy of Andrea Gómez Romero)
Cornus nuttallii (photo courtesy of Andrea Gómez Romero)

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Cornus nuttallii

Native to Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Grows to 50 ft. tall, 20 ft. wide, with one trunk or several. Gray branches in pleasing horizontal pattern. Spectacular when it shows off its gleaming white bracts on bare branches in spring; there is often a second flowering in late summer, when the tree is in full leaf. Flowers are ringed by four to eight large (to 3-in.-long), rounded or pointed bracts; they may be white or pink-tinged white. Oval, 3–5-in. green leaves turn yellow, red, and pink in fall. Decorative red fruit in knoblike clusters in fall.

Dislikes routine garden watering, fertilizing, pruning; injury to tender bark provides entrance for insects and diseases. For better chance of success, give exceptionally good drainage and infrequent summer water, and plant under high-branching trees so that bark will not sunburn. In Northwest, however, planting under larger trees is not advisable. C. nuttallii is very susceptible to anthracnose in this region; a location under larger trees creates conditions that favor the disease—reduced air circulation and shadiness that extend time for wet foliage to dry.

‘Colrigo Giant’ is vigorous and heavy trunked, with low-branching but erect habit; bears a profusion of 6-in. flower heads. ‘Goldspot’ has leaves splashed with creamy yellow; because it is grafted, it blooms from an early age (when only 2 ft. high). ‘Starlight’ is a hybrid between C. nuttallii and C. kousa, with an upright habit to 30 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide. Blooms are white; fall leaf color is red. Resists anthracnose and powdery mildew. ‘Venus’, another cross between these two species, grows to 25 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide, with very large (6-in.) white blooms and few fruits.

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