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CORNUS mas

Image of Cornus mas

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Cornaceae

Botanical Name

CORNUS mas

Plant Common Name

Cornelian Cherry

General Description

Despite the common name, Cornelian cherry is actually a dogwood. This deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub to small tree can become quite large with age. It is native to the woods of Europe and western Asian, and is one of the earliest shrubs to bloom there. Its small, yellow flowers appear in late winter to very early spring and are followed by red, cherry-like edible fruits in late summer that are tart and mealy.

The simple, ovate leaves of Cornelian cherry have smooth edges and are bright to medium green. In fall they turn unimpressive shades of greenish yellow, sometimes with purplish highlights. Mature specimens develop exfoliating, grayish-brown bark in addition to the green twigs or new growth from the previous year. Both offer winter interest. In late winter to early spring, the greenish twigs produce loads of tiny, yellow, star-like flower umbels. The flowers are not impressive alone but en masse they make the branches look like golden puffs of smoke. Bees are drawn to the lightly fragrant blooms. Edible, fleshy red fruits appear in late summer. These are not very tasty raw but can be processed into delicious jam. The fruit is only truly ripe when it is ready to fall from the branches.

Cornelian cherry can be grown in full sun to partial sun in a wide range of average soil types. Unlike many other dogwoods, it is tolerant of both alkaline and heavy clay soil. Specimens sometimes sucker from the base and may require selective pruning to maintain tidiness. Cultivars to note include the variegated 'Variegata', golden-leaved 'Aurea' and heavy-flowering 'Golden Glory.'

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 5

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    15'-25' / 4.6m - 7.6m (20)

  • Width

    15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m (18)

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Late Winter

  • Native To

    Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Lemon Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Dark Red

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Purple, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Green, Tan, Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Bark Color Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Edible, Foundation, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Hedges, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes