Cornus mas

A European dogwood with edible berries, occasionally naturalized in the woods

Cornus mas Cornelian cherry

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneously

This deciduous shrub of the dogwood family is also called the European cornel. It is native to Southern Europe and southwestern Asia, but has been introduced into North America as an ornamental. It is easily confused with the native Northern spicebush because of the similar color of the flowers and the summer berries. The spicebush, however, has alternate leaves, while the Cornelian cherry dogwood has opposite leaves. The opposite stems reflect that pattern as well, even when the leaves themselves have not yet emerged.

This species grows 6-12 feet tall. The leaves are opposite, ovate in shape, and without teeth. They are 4-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. The plant may take the form of a shrub or small tree, 5-12 meters tall. The branches are dark brown with greenish twigs.

The bright yellow flowers form in clusters of 10-25 in late winter or early spring (Feb through March) emerging before the leaves. The fruit is a red berry-like oval drupe, containing a large seed. In Europe and Asia the fruit is considered edible when ripe, though it has an acidic flavor. It is commonly made into jams with the addition of sugar.

The shrub is available commercially and is popular in gardens. The USDA has it only marked as introduced into New York State, but it obviously has been planted elsewhere.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Occasionally naturalized in disturbed woods.

Flowers in March to early April, before the leaves.

Fruits September through October.

Cornus mas Cornelian cherry

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneously
Cornus mas gallery
Plant Life-Form
deciduous shrub or tree
Common Names
Cornelian cherry Cornelian cherry dogwood