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Kousa dogwood is a small tree with very showy flowers (bracts) in May/June. The true flower is relatively inconspicuous and sits in the center of four showy white bracts (tapered modified leaves, each about 1 to 2 inches long). Bracts are relatively long lived and persist for up to six weeks; in comparison, the flowering period for the native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is about two weeks. The branches of a mature tree generally have a distinct horizontal orientation. Thus, in flower, branch tiers are cloaked in white. In contrast to the native flowering dogwood, kousa dogwood produces its flowers after leaves have emerged. However, the bracts are held upright on a stalk (pedicle) and are not hidden by the foliage. The true flowers develop into spherical red-pink fruit (about 1 inch diameter; late summer/early fall) that are relatively showy. Fruit are edible when they become soft. Fall color varies from tree to tree (seedling-grown trees) and from cultivar to cultivar.
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
February 22, 2012