What is a Gray Dogwood?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2019
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The Gray Dogwood, also known as the Northern Swamp Dogwood and botanically as Cornus racemosa, of the family Cornaceae, is a perennial shrub native to the USA. It is popular as an ornamental shrub as well as a wildlife habitat plant, and it is also used in soil erosion control. The Gray Dogwood can be planted singly or in closely placed series to form a hedge.

The Dogwood tree is propagated through seeds and from softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings. A mature tree, which may grow up to six feet (1.83 meters) to 15 feet (4.57 meters) tall, also gives rise to a profusion of fast-spreading rhizomes or suckers at its base. It is recommended that planting be done in early spring. Gray Dogwood plants are quite adaptable and can be planted in areas of full sunlight, partial shade or full shade.

Water requirement for this plant is moderate, but it thrives better in a moist soil. In wet areas, the Gray Dogwood thickets can spread quite quickly and may require some management to prevent them from taking over entirely. The growth rate for the plants is slower in dry areas.


In the natural course of things, the Gray Dogwood plant gives rise to multiple stems that grow in a dense thicket form. If, however, the plant is pruned to keep only a few stems or just one stem, the stem can develop to form a noticeable trunk; as the plant matures, the trunk will start to arch. The stem bark is reddish-brown when young and turns gray and blotchy as the plant ages.

The leaves of the Gray Dogwood are gray-green in color and oppositely placed. They have a narrow, tapering oval shape, and measure about three inches in length. The flowers are greenish-white compound blooms set on long stalks, and are produced in May and June. Clusters of small brown fruits then make their appearance on bright red stalks. The fruits mature in August and September, and attract a host of birds and other wildlife.

As far as maintenance goes, the Gray Dogwood is quite a hardy plant and has been found to be resistant to most diseases, pest attacks and physiological issues. This hardiness makes it a good choice for hassle-free gardens and in forestry plantings. Given its propensity to thrive in wet areas, the Gray Dogwood is commonly planted along stream banks and has been found very effective in preventing soil erosion.



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