Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Western flowering dogwood - Cornus nuttallii

Family: Cornaceae (Dogwood family)
Other names: Mountain Dogwood, Pacific dogwood, Western Dogwood [PFAF]

Fruit (Famine Food), Dye, Tannin, Basketry, Wood, Smoking Mixture Malaria, Tonic, Febrifuge


"Cornus nuttallii is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects." [PFAF]
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil." [PFAF]

Origin Status: Native[E-flora]
General: "Irregularly branched deciduous tree up to 20 m tall; bark blackish-brown, smooth, becoming finely ridged with age, young branches greyish-purplish." [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: "Opposite, deciduous, oval, stalked, pointed at the tip, 4-10 cm long, deep green above, greyish-brown below, turning red in the fall, characteristic veins curving parallel to the leaf edge." [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: "Inflorescence of numerous, unstalked, hemispheric clusters 1.5-2 cm wide, subtended by 4-7 conspicuous white or pinkish-tinged, large (2-7 cm long) showy bracts, flowering in spring and often again in the fall; petals greenish-white, usually purplish-tinged." [IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: "Fleshy drupes, 10 mm long, bright red." [IFBC-E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: Green
USDA Blooming Period: Mid Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Habitat / Range "Mesic forests in the lowland and montane zones; common in SW BC; S to CA, disjunct in ID." [IFBC-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
"A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American deciduous broad-leaved tree distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in maritime to submaritime cool mesothermal climates on moderately dry to fresh, nitrogen-rich soils (Moder or Mull humus forms). A shrub or small tree in disturbed communities and coniferous forests on water-shedding sites, most often on colluvial slopes. Its occurrence decreases with increasing latitude, precipitation, and continentality. Characteristic of young-seral mesothermal forests." (IPBC) [E-flora]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


"An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility[1], ranging from acid to shallow chalk[200]. Another report says that it does not thrive in poor chalky soils[182]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade[[188]. Plants are hardy to about -15°c[184], but they require long hot humid summers in order to promote good growth[200]. A very ornamental tree[1], but it is usually short-lived in Britain and does not do well in the north of this country[11]. There is some evidence to suggest that trees grow better on poor soils and can be killed by too much kindness. A very good tree has been seen on a poor gravel soil[182]. Closely related to C. florida[226]. This species is the floral emblem of British Columbia[226]. A number of named varieties have been developed for their ornamental value[182]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]." [PFAF]

"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed[80, 113]. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors[80, 164]. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 - 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year[164]. Scarification may also help as may a period of about 3 days warm stratification at 15°c before the cold stratification[80, 164]. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more[164]. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage[78]. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months[78]."[PFAF]

Soak: 24 hours Stratification: 90 days [Leadem FSSB]


  1. E-flora - nuttallii&redblue=Both&lifeform=2 [Accessed: 11/25/2014 6:59:56 PM ]
  2. PFAF -, Accessed Jan 12, 2014

Page last modified on Friday, December 24, 2021 1:41 PM