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Gray Dogwood

Common Name: Gray Dogwood.

Scientific Name: Cornus Racemosa.

What to look for?  A shrubbery or thicket of green leaves adorned by clusters of tiny white flowers during the spring and early summer. Gray Dogwood is a tall shrub that is abundantly branched. The bark of older branches is gray-brown while newer stems are yellowish green. The opposite leaves are long, lanceolate and medium green. dome-shaped panicles of white flowers are produced. Each tiny flower consists of four (4) white lanceolate petals, four (4) stamens with pale yellow anthers, and a central pistil. The flowers are replaced by drupes or fruit. Each fleshy drupe contains several seeds. The branches turn red when the fruit matures. It is not until after the berries are mature or are gone that the Gray Dogwood displays its most attractive feature: the red fruit stalks, or pedicels, which remain on the shrub until late fall or early winter. The root system can produce clonal offsets from underground runners; hence, a thicket of small shrubs can develop.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Gray Dogwood can be found around the banks and wetland areas of Carillon Stonegate Pond. You will these shrubs along the edge of the Arlene Shoemaker wetlands preserve as you hike west from our pond.

How big are they? Gray Dogwood is typically three (3) to six (6) feet tall. The lanceolate leaves are approximately four (4) inches long and one and one-half (1.5) inches across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The native Gray Dogwood has been found across the eastern U.S. This common shrub is found in most counties of Illinois. Habitats include moist or rocky ground along streams, ponds, wet meadows, glade and prairie margins, open woodlands, and woodland openings.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Gray Dogwood usually occurs from late spring to mid-summer and lasts about 3 weeks.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract a wide variety of insects, including bumblebees, honeybees, and a variety of other bees, some wasps, butterflies, and beetles. Many insects utilize Gray Dogwood and other dogwood shrubs as a food source. The berries of dogwood are an important food source to many birds and mammals. Both the Cottontail Rabbit and White-Tailed Deer browse on the branches and leaves. Gray Dogwood is often used as a nesting site by several songbirds.

Interesting Facts About the Gray Dogwood:

  • Chances are you will not even notice the white berries in late summer because birds voraciously eat them in no time.

  • Genus name ‘Cornus’ comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn in probable reference to the strength and density of the wood.
    Specific epithet ‘Racemosa’ refers to the flowers being produced in racemes.

For more information on the Gray Dogwood and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Gardens, and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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