Herb: Flowering Dogwood

Latin name: Cornus florida

Synonyms: Benthamidia florida, Cynoxylon floridum

Family: Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)

Medicinal use of Flowering Dogwood:

Flowering dogwood was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent and antiperiodic properties. It is little used in modern herbalism. The dried root-bark is antiperiodic, astringent, diaphoretic, mildly stimulant and tonic. The flowers are said to have similar properties. A tea or tincture of the astringent root bark has been used as a quinine substitute to treat malaria and also in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea. The bark has also been used as a poultice on external ulcers, wounds etc. The glycoside "cornin" found in the bark has astringent properties. The inner bark was boiled and the tea drunk to reduce fevers and to restore a lost voice. A compound infusion of the bark and the root has been used in the treatment of various childhood diseases such as measles and worms. It was often used in the form of a bath. The fruits are used as a bitter digestive tonic. A tincture of them has been used to restore tone to the stomach in cases of alcoholism.

Description of the plant:


6 m
(20 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Rich well-drained soils in acidic woods to 1500 metres. An understorey tree in dry deciduous woods.

Edible parts of Flowering Dogwood:

Fruit - cooked. The fruit is not poisonous, but is almost inedible raw. When the seed is removed and the flesh is mashed, it can be mixed with other fruits and made into jams, jellies etc. The fruit, when infused in "Eau de Vie" makes a bitter but acceptable drink. One report says that the fruit is poisonous for humans. The fruit is borne in clusters, each fruit being up to 15mm in diameter with a thin mealy bitter flesh. The fruit is high in lipids, uo to 35% of dry weight.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the fibrous root. The peeled twigs are used as toothbrushes, they are good for whitening the teeth. The juice from the twigs preserves and hardens the gums. The twigs can also be chewed to make natural paintbrushes. A black ink can be made from the bark mixed with gum arabic and iron sulphate. The bark is very bitter, could it be used to make an insect or bird repellent? Wood - hard, heavy, strong, close grained, durable, takes a good polish and is extremely shock-resistant. It weighs 51lb per cubic foot and is used for making wheel hubs, tool handles, the heads of golf clubs, bearings, turnery etc.

Propagation of Flowering Dogwood:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 - 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich well-drained soils in acidic woods to 1500 metres. An understorey tree in dry deciduous woods.

Known hazards of Cornus florida:

There is a report that the fruit is poisonous for humans.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.