The flowering dogwood is a colorful and fruit-producing tree that is native to the eastern United States. Due to its resilience and wildlife benefits, the tree has become increasingly popular with city planners and homeowners looking to add valuable tree canopy to their communities.
Over 20 varieties are grown in the United States for specific traits such as height and flower color. While this is an understory tree that grows only 40 feet tall, the value it brings to the ecosystem is top notch!
Benefits of the dogwood tree
These trees provide nearly year-round benefits for wildlife. The flowers offer pollen for pollinators, spring sprouts are a food source for birds, mammals and insects, and the canopy serves as habitat. Fruit from dogwood trees are also a rich food source that’s high in calcium and fat content. Over 36 species of birds eat the fruit, including ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail and wild turkey. The fruit is also consumed by mammals, including chipmunks, foxes, squirrels, skunks, rabbits, deer, beaver and black bears.
Flowering dogwoods also benefit the ecosystem in which they’re planted. The leaves of the dogwood tree decompose more quickly than those of many other species, which helps add organic matter to the soil at a faster rate. They are also tolerant of a wide variety of soil types and will continue to improve the soil for the surrounding plants as they grow.
Due to their wide geographic range and preference for dappled shade, dogwoods are an excellent choice for riparian buffers—zones of trees growing near rivers and streams. As we see more communities and private landowners begin to prioritize buffer plantings because of their benefits to water quality, the dogwood can be an option that is equally beautiful and beneficial.
Is a dogwood tree right for your property?
It is always important to plant the right tree in the right place by considering the species' preferred habitat. Flowering dogwoods can survive in a wide variety of habitats, but like Goldilocks, they will do best when the conditions are just right.
Too much shade will create a sparse tree with few flowers in the spring and too much sun can stress the tree and expose the roots to dry and rapidly changing soil. As an understory tree, dogwoods rely on the trees around them to control the climate and maintain soil moisture with shade. Dappled sunlight will create a tree that is well-branched and full of flowers each spring.
In urban areas or near homes, the shade of buildings can act as a canopy layer and help shield dogwoods from the hot afternoon sun.
Dogwoods also prefer moist, well-draining soil. Therefore, newly planted trees must be watered in the summer for at least the first year. Protecting the trunks from lawn mowers or anything that might damage the tree is also essential. The tree will be vulnerable to pests and diseases if the young trunk is damaged.
If you’re looking for a tree to add to your neighborhood, consider the dogwood, which with an average lifespan of 80 years, will add beauty and wildlife habitat for years to come.