In Northeast Ohio, it really has been the year of the Mas… Cornus mas (CM) to be exact and colloquially known as Corneliancherry dogwood. This bright, golden-yellow welcome burst of Spring color has been showing for a little over two weeks now! Corneliancherry dogwood is one of the first of the new season, easily noticeable, blooming trees and is truly a harbinger of Spring.
CM is a small stature, rounded tree attaining heights of 20-25 feet and mature widths of 15-20 feet and is often considered a large shrub; consequently, the plant remains well-behaved for using beneath utility lines. This tree will thrive best in moist, well-drained landscapes or even highly urbanized settings, like parks, or as a single specimen plant. Nevertheless, when planted en masse it can serve as very striking plant screen or as a large aerial hedge. It is a tough, durable plant creating some winter interest with its scaly, exfoliating bark patches to expose various colors ranging from dark-greys to reddish-browns.
CM flowers are very different than other typical, large flowering dogwoods; notably, these dogwoods have almost puffball shaped, cluster filled, tiny, star-shaped, golden-yellow blooms. These blooms emerge in early Spring, completely covering the tree before any leaves emerge. After the blooms fade away, the medium-green foliage appears and remains relatively clean and disease-free throughout the growing season.
If flowers emerge during conditions favoring pollinators flying; specifically, warm temperatures above 55°F, gentle breezes and no rain, then beautiful fruits can develop to accent the attractive foliage. Corneliancherry dogwood fruits are elongate drupes, 0.5 to 0.75 inches in length, beginning green and turning to an attractive bright cherry-red shade throughout most of the summer. CM is native to regions of Eastern Europe and Western Asia and fruits have been used for over 7,000 years as a food crop in ancient Greece.
PLEASE NOTE- the fruits are NOT ripe until late summer when they turn a deep, dark red. Eating CM fruits before they are fully ripe will “sour” the whole experience for you, literally! Unripe fruits are extremely acerbic, causing the familiar face puckering and body shuddering, if they are “tried” before they soften and turn deep, dark red. If you wait for them to ripen, they have a pleasant plum-like taste that many “foraging connoisseurs” make into prized jams, jellies and pies!