Cornus kousa subs. chinensis (Osborn)Q.Y.Xiang

Chinese dogwood

Family: Cornaceae

Chinese dogwood is a small tree or shrub from China, introduced into cultivation in 1907. It received an Award of Merit in 1956 for its Autumn foliage colour and an Award of Garden Merit in 1984. In the UK it is described as slow growing, eventually reaching 7m. tall. USA nurseries describe it as fast growing, putting on a foot a year and eventually reaching 40ft. It prefers an acid soil.
The flowers are tiny, in a compact head surrounded by large showy bracts. These are white, sometimes blotched with pink and sometimes turning pinkish. The cultivar ‘Miss Santori’ has pink bracts. According to the books it flowers in May and June; in Belfast Botanic Gardens (this year – 2012) it flowered in July.
The leaves of members of the Cornus genus have a peculiarity that can be a useful garden identification aid. If a leaf is carefully torn across, the two halves remain attached by threads as shown in the photo below. These threads are often described as being of latex, however microscope examination shows that they are in fact spiral thickening from the xylem of the leaf traces. The only other genus of temperate plants that has this characteristic is Eucomia, but in this case the threads are indeed of latex. Eucomia is the only temperate rubber producing tree.
The Chinese dogwood in Belfast Botanic Gardens is beside the path from the Stranmillis gate to the Ulster Museum.

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2012. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.