A Welcome Exotic for Our Gardens


Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa, is the Japanese equivalent of our native Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida. One distinct advantage of using it is that it is resistant to the many diseases that infect the Flowering Dogwood. Like the Flowering Dogwood, it becomes a small tree and has showy white floral bracts that appear after the leaves come out. They put on a beautiful show after our native dogwood is done flowering. From August to October they have showy red fruit that is edible. It is not invasive because the fruit is minimally attractive to wildlife that will scatter the seeds. The excellent red to purple fall color holds for a long period along with the fruit. As the plant matures the bark exfoliates into an interesting multicolored pattern. These characteristics make it a plant of year-round interest. If one wants more diversity in the garden, there are number of cultivars with colored bracts or variegated foliage and even a weeping form.

While there is a strong push by many these days to use only native species, the West Virginia Botanic Garden focuses on plants that are appropriate to the region
and accent the natural beauty that already exists, including natives as well as nonnative species. This suggests that non-native species should look like they belong here – fitting in visually, but even more – they should be well behaved and not reproduce to the point they escape into natural environments. Kousa Dogwood fits this mandate.

By: George Longenecker, Executive Director Emeritus, WVBG

Originally published in our Summer 2019 newsletter

The showy flowers, fruit, and leaves of Kousa Dogwood.

Photos by George W. Longenecker.

The exfoliating bark of Kousa Dogwood.

Photo by George W. Longenecker

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