Rough-Leaved Dogwood

Illustration of rough-leaved dogwood leaves, flowers, fruits.
Scientific Name
Cornus drummondii
Cornaceae (dogwoods)

Rough-leaved dogwood is an irregularly branched thicket-forming shrub or small, spreading tree.

Leaves are opposite, simple, 1–5 inches long, ½–2½ inches wide, conspicuously veined, lacking teeth, egg- to lance-shaped; upper surface olive green and rather rough-hairy above; lower surface paler with woolly, dense hairs; leaf stalk slender, rough-hairy, green to reddish. Leaves smell faintly like sour milk.

Bark is gray-brown with shallow grooves and short, thin plates.

Twigs are green and hairy when young, reddish-brown and smooth with age.

Flowers May–June, yellowish-white, borne in spreading, long-stalked clusters 1–3 inches across; flower stalks 1–2 inches long, hairy; petals 4, spreading, pointed at the tip.

Fruits August–October, globe-shaped, fleshy, 1–2 seeded, white, about ¼ inch wide, the style (small stalk) on tip of fruit persistent.

Key identifiers:

  • Roughened upper leaf surface
  • Secondary veins somewhat crowded toward the leaf base (most secondary veins arise in the bottom half of the leaf)
  • Fruits white.

Similar species: Missouri has five species of dogwood. Rough-leaved is perhaps the most common species found in disturbed habitats and tolerates drier conditions than other dogwoods. This species can hybridize with other dogwoods, and one occasionally finds an individual plant or small colony (spread via root sprouts) with characteristics intermediate between the two parent species. These hybrids are usually sterile.

Other Common Names
Roughleaf Dogwood

Height: to 20 feet.

Where To Find
image of Rough-Leaved Dogwood distribution map

Statewide. Probably occurs in every county.

Occurs in dry or rocky woods, thickets, old fields, limestone and dolomite glades, prairies, bluff escarpments, occasionally low wet ground, along ponds, streams, and at the base of bluffs. This dogwood is one of the hardiest of Missouri shrubs and will withstand drought or extreme cold. It spreads by underground stems, sending up sprouts at the margin of the thicket. It is difficult to manage in prairies, especially hill prairies in northwestern Missouri.

Native Missouri shrub or small tree. A hardy landscaping shrub, offering value as a windbreak and for wildlife cover.

This dogwood is a particularly hardy landscaping shrub, and the wood is used for small woodenware articles, especially shuttleblocks and charcoal. Native Americans and pioneers made use of the antibiotic properties and fashioned chew-sticks from the stems to prevent tooth decay.

Although seldom planted as a windbreak around farmsteads, the thickets of this dogwood provide excellent cover and nesting habitat for birds and animals. The fruit is eaten by dozens of bird species.

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Similar Species
About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.