Cornus amomum (Silky Dogwood)

Plant Info
Also known as: Pale Dogwood, Swamp Dogwood
Family:Cornaceae (Dogwood)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to wet soil; wetlands, shores
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:6 to 12 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat to convex clusters, 1 to 2½ inches broad, of short-stalked flowers at the tips of branches. Flowers are creamy white, about 3/8 inch wide, with 4 lance-oblong to narrowly triangular petals and 4 sharp sepals that are visible between the petals. The 4 stamens are about as long as the petals, spreading to ascending around the single green-tipped style at center. Flower stalks are silky hairy.

Leaves and bark: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and opposite, lance-elliptic to narrowly egg-shaped, 2 to 3½ inches long, ¾ to 2 inches wide, the tip abruptly tapered to a point, the base rounded or tapered, on a stalk up to ¾ inch long. The upper surface is dark green with 4 or 5 evenly spaced lateral veins per side; the lower surface is paler, both with short, stiff, appressed hairs. Edges are smooth.

[photo of twig] New growth twigs can be greenish purple though dormant twigs are typically dark reddish purple, densely covered with fine hairs.

[photo of older branch] Older branches stay dark purple for several years though become densely patterned with vertical brownish lenticels (pores). Older bark is thin and gray, mostly smooth though roughish. Stems are multiple from the ground, often arching, rarely larger than 1 or 2 inches in diameter at breast height.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a round, silvery blue, berry-like drupe, about ¼ inch diameter, the stalks green or reddish, the cluster typically drooping.


The dogwoods are distinguished from other flowering shrubs by the clusters of small, 4-petaled white flowers and opposite (except for 1 species) leaves that are toothless and have prominent, arching, lateral veins. Silky Dogwood is the least common of Minnesota's native dogwoods and is only occasional in open wetlands and forest fringes in (roughly) the southeast quarter of the state. Where present, it is likely growing in fairly close association with the somewhat similar Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), which is just about everywhere. Silky dogwood can be readily distinguished by its densely hairy young twigs, the dense vertical lenticels on older branches, a brown pith in older branches and, when present, its silvery blue fruit. Some references have separated the dogwoods out of the Cornus genus into Swida, making Silky Dogwood Swida amomum, but this name is not universally accepted and not currently recognized in Minnesota. Based on the accepted name in Minnesota, there are 2 varieties: var. amomum that typically has rusty brown hairs on leaves, and var. schuetzeana (Swida amomum var. schuetzeana) that typically has white hairs and is present in Minnesota. But let's throw another monkey wrench into the taxonomic mix: another synonym with varying degrees of acceptance for var. schuetzeana is Cornus obliqua, or Cornus amomum subsp. obliqua. Maybe in a few years this will all get worked out...or not...

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Barbara Boulton - Southern Martin County
on: 2020-08-09 15:14:55

Beautiful shrub, I noticed because of the berries and no other along Okamanpeedan Lake during my walk looked like this.

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