South Dakota Native Plant Research
Cornaceae : Cornus sericea

Cornaceae : Cornus sericea


Download Seedling: One month old dogwood seedling grown in research greenhouse at SDSU. (94 KB)

Download Vegetative: Leaves of dogwood growing in research garden at SDSU. (543 KB)

Download Flowering: Dogwood flowers in flat topped clusters. (603 KB)

Download Fruiting: (639 KB)

Download Thicket (1.0 MB)

Download Winter stems (4.2 MB)

Family Name


Common Name

Red willow, Red osier, American dogwood

Native American Name

Lakota: čhaŋšáša


Cornus sericea is a perennial branching stoloniferous, thicket-forming shrub, growing to 3 m in height. The stems have reddish bark, young branches with short, stiff hairs and older branches smooth. The simple, opposite, petiolate leaves are oblong-lanceolate to ovate, 3–15 cm long, 2-5-5.5 cm wide, with a pointed tip and with 5-7 pairs of prominent pennate veins that are curved toward the tip. The upper surface is green with a few hairs and the lower surface paler. When pulled apart, the veins produce white web-like strands. The inflorescences are flat-topped compound cymes, 3–10 cm across. The sepals are minute, the 4 white to cream colored petals are 2-4 mm long, attached to a disk, the ovary inferior and the stamens as long or longer than the petals. The fruit is a 1-2 seeded drupe, 6-9 mm in diameter. Red osier dogwood blooms from May through July along stream banks, lakeshores and in swampy wet places throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Red osier dogwood is an attractive addition to a native plant garden and is available in many cultivars at most gardening stores. The reddish stems turn bright red in winter and are particularly showy against a snowy backdrop. The fragrant white flowers attract native bees and butterflies. The clusters of whitish fruit are attractive to birds and are considered to have an ornamental interest equal to that of the flowers.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in July through September, removing the seeds from the fleshy fruit or plant whole drupe.

Germination: Seeds are dormant and need a colt treatment. Plant out in the fall for best results.

Vegetative Propagation: Softwood cuttings or division of shoots from stolons. Plant frequently send up new shoots.

Soils: Tolerant of sandy, sandy-loam, loam and clay-loam soils.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Prefers moist conditions and is flood tolerant.

Cornaceae : Cornus sericea