Species Profile

Eastern Flowering Dogwood

Scientific Name: Cornus florida
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Eastern Flowering Dogwood


The Eastern Flowering Dogwood is a small tree measuring 3 to 10 m in height. In larger specimens, the bark is brownish grey and separated into quadrangular plates, giving it the appearance of alligator skin. The main branches are arranged in a clearly tiered pattern around the trunk. The oval leaves are opposite each other on the branches. The small flowers, which grow in clusters at the tips of small branches, are surrounded by four conspicuous white leaves similar to petals. The fleshy, egg-shaped fruit grows in tight clusters. Although similar to the Alternate-leaved Dogwood, the Eastern Flowering Dogwood can be distinguished by the position of its leaves, the presence of white “petals” around its flower clusters, and the colour of its fruit, which is scarlet red as opposed to dark green or blue.


Distribution and Population

The Eastern Flowering Dogwood occurs in eastern North America from southern Michigan, Ontario, and Maine, to eastern Texas and northern Florida. It is common to the deciduous forests of the central and southern United States. Two extremely isolated populations are known to exist in the mountains of eastern Mexico. In Canada, this species is only found in the deciduous forests of southern Ontario: in Oakville just west of Toronto, along the Niagara escarpment through Halton and Hamilton, and in several sites scattered throughout the Niagara region and towards the southwest. The Eastern Flowering Dogwood is particularly plentiful on the sand plain of Norfolk County. From 1975 to 2005, 154 Eastern Flowering Dogwood populations were documented in 12 counties and regions in southern Ontario. The total number of specimens was estimated to be between 1200 and 1300. Certain populations had no more than a single tree, many had from one dozen to several dozen trees, and one population had more than one hundred trees. Several populations have declined significantly (average rate of 7% to 8% per year) since the onset of dogwood anthracnose, a leaf disease that leads to the death of the tree. This has resulted in a massive decline (86.5%) of Canadian populations since the early 1990s.



The Eastern Flowering Dogwood generally grows in the understory or on the edges of mid-age to mature, deciduous or mixed forests. This species is generally found in the drier areas of its habitat, although it is occasionally found in slightly moist environments. The Eastern Flowering Dogwood grows in sandy soil, more or less clayey. The species typically occurs in clusters within larger parcels of apparently suitable, though unoccupied, habitat. Historically, the Eastern Flowering Dogwood occupied a significant portion of the Carolinian forest in southern Ontario. However, large portions of the forest have been cleared to make way for agricultural activities, residential areas, and industrial facilities. This profound transformation resulted in a significant reduction and fragmentation of forest cover and suitable habitat.



The Eastern Flowering Dogwood is a slow-growing tree with a long lifespan. The tree flowers in mid-spring, just as the leaves begin to develop. The large, white, petal-like leaves that surround the flowers make them particularly conspicuous; they attract pollinating insects, thus ensuring that reproduction will occur. Although the flowers have both male and female parts, seed production is optimal when flowers are pollinated with pollen from another flower. The fruit turns red at the end of the summer, once it has matured. Ripe fruits are eaten and dispersed by several bird species and a few mammals species. Seeds germinate in the spring one or two years after dispersal. Germination and the establishment of shoots occur in the forest shade, although exposure to intermediate light levels stimulates growth.



The main threat to this species is dogwood anthracnose, a leaf disease that is new to Ontario. Anthracnose is caused by a microscopic fungus that triggers the massive die-back of leaves, which, in turn, causes the death of trees. This disease has decimated several populations. In fact, only a few populations appear to have been spared to date. In addition to causing massive die-offs, dogwood anthracnose compromises the production of flowers and fruit in surviving specimens. Other threats to the Eastern Flowering Dogwood include the fragmentation and loss of forest land in southern Ontario, particularly in the extreme southwest of Essex County and in the Chatham–Kent region. The deterioration of the dogwood’s habitat reduces the probability that birds can effectively disperse seeds over long distances from occupied habitats to suitable unoccupied habitats.



Federal Protection

The Eastern Flowering Dogwood is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Eastern Flowering Dogwood is not protected under any provincial law in Ontario.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) in Canada (2007)

    Eastern flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small tree of the forest understory or edge. It has branches in whorls from the main trunk, giving a tiered appearance. Leaves are simple, opposite and deciduous. Flowers are in terminal clusters with four conspicuous white floral bracts. Fruit occurs in tight clusters; scarlet, shiny, one-seeded, ovoid and fleshy. It is similar to Cornus alternifolia, but the latter has alternate leaves and branching, lacks the floral bracts and fruit are dark green to blue in an open cluster.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Eastern Flowering Dogwood (2007)

    A small understory or forest-edge tree present only as small populations within the fragmented woodlots of southern Ontario’s Carolinian forest. The spread of dogwood anthracnose disease has caused dramatic declines in the Canadian populations that reflect similar declines throughout the species’ range in eastern North America. This assessment of risk applies only to wild populations and not to cultivated plants in nurseries, parks, and gardens.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) in Canada (2014)

    The Eastern Flowering Dogwood, a small understory tree of deciduous forests, was listed as Endangered on Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2009. Environment Canada (EC) is the lead federal department under SARA, but the province of Ontario is the responsible jurisdiction for the management of this species and is the lead for recovery planning under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. A provincial recovery strategy for the species was developed on behalf of province of British Columbia in 2009. EC is adopting the provincial recovery strategy and the Ontario Government Response Statement under section 44 of SARA and has included a federal addition to complete the SARA requirements. The federal addition, the provincial recovery strategy and the Government Response Statement together constitute the federal recovery strategy for the Eastern Flowering Dogwood. It has been prepared in cooperation with the province of Ontario and the Department of National Defence.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007)

    2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act - Terrestrial Species (2008)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 25, 2008 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 27, 2009 for species undergoing extended consultations.


  • Public Registry Notice for s.83 Exceptions - Former Camp Ipperwash (2015)

    As per the Memorandum of Understanding between DND, Environment Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency: 6.1 c) Activities occurring on Defence Establishments that are considered necessary for public safety in accordance with paragraph a) and authorized under the National Defence Act and the Explosives Act are: Remediation of contaminated sites; and Securing, handling, destruction or disposal of unsafe munitions, including unexploded explosive ordnance.