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Trees of Iowa: An Interactive Key

Red Osier Dogwood
(Cornus stolonifera)



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The Red-osier dogwood is also known as American dogwood, red willow, and redstem dogwood. The “osier” in red-osier is French, meaning willow-like, and it is frequently called red willow or redstem dogwood due to its conspicuous red stems.

Hardiness: zones 2 through 7

Growth Rate:
Fast

Mature Shape:
Rounded

Height:
7 to 9 feet

Width:
10 feet

Site Requirements:
Adaptable to soils and moisture conditions

Flowering Dates: June - August

Seed Dispersal Dates: May

Seed Bearing Age:

Seed Bearing Frequency:

Seed Stratification: Prechill for 3 months at 40F
Red Osier Dogwood TwigRed Osier Dogwood Form

It is a woody deciduous shrub that grows 5 to 20 feet tall. The leaves are simple, opposite, smooth margins, 2-4 inches long, dark green on top and hairy and paler underneath. The bark and twigs are red to purple from autumn to late spring, and then they turn bright green from spring to summer. It has smooth white berries, and flowers that bloom from June to August.

The Red-osier dogwood can be easily identified by breaking apart a leaf; the false-veins tend to remain intact, parallel, and attached to both halves (see slideshow below).

Red Osier Dogwood FlowersRed Osier Dogwood Fruit

It is often planted as an ornamental for aesthetic purposes and to attract birds, and it is also used as a secondary plant for windbreaks. The Ojibwa and Chippewa Indians used the bark as a dye by mixing it with other plants and minerals to produce red, light red, ecru, and black dyes. 

Red Osier Dogwood Leaves

It is common near lake edges, ponds, wetlands, and along streams – preferring wetland margins where the soil is high in nitrogen.  The distribution ranges from California north to Alaska and throughout the United States to the eastern border south to Mexico. It is a native shrub to Iowa and can be found naturally occurring in the northern part of the state.  

 

Click on a thumbnail image below to view larger pictures.
Red Osier Dogwood Flowers Red Osier Dogwood Leaves Red Osier Dogwood Twig Red Osier Dogwood Flowers Red Osier Dogwood Leaves Red Osier Dogwood Leaves Red Osier Dogwood Flowers Red Osier Dogwood Form Red Osier Dogwood Fruit Red Osier Dogwood Leaves Red Osier Dogwood Twigs