While it might be one of the smaller trees in Bayne Park, the Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa, stands out beautifully against the contrasting red-brick building with its vase-shape and horizontal branches filled with a generous bounty of green leaves.
Kousa Dogwood typically flowers mid-May through June. What appears to be pointed flower petals are actually modified leaves called bracts. The four bracts surround the cluster of tiny green inconspicious flowers. Another example of bracts that you may be familiar with are the red modified leaves (bracts) that surround the tiny yellow flowers on a poinsettia.
The flowers and surrounding bracts occur atop tall upward-facing stems which raise them above the foliage giving the Kousa Dogwood tree the appearance of having been delicately decorated with frosting. These stems are most easily viewed from below. It is interesting to note that the leaf veins curve parallel to the shape of the leaf edges. The leaf edges are smooth and each leaf tapers to a point.
Look closely beneath a leaf and you will surprisingly see yellowish tufts and longer dark strands that resemble hair. These hair-like structures are botanically known as trichomes. They can insulate the leaves to help keep frost away from delicate plant cells, they can help reduce evaporation by shielding the leaves from heat and wind, and they can provide protection from some herbivorous insects.
We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for a Dad Joke: What tree has the most bark? (Based on the theme of this post I think you can discern the answer!) As the tree ages the bark develops an exfoliating character, revealing multi-hued mosaic-like patterns.
Reddish fruits appear on long stems in late summer through early autumn resembling raspberries. The spherical fleshy fruit, ranging from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter, is believed to have evolved to appeal to monkeys living in China and Japan. Fortunately there are many species of birds that will feast upon them, and squirrels eat the fruits as well. Fruits landing on the ground may ferment and attract yellow jackets.
The Kousa Dogwood tree is a nectar source for the American Snout Butterfly. They camouflage themselves by perching on a branch while holding their antennae and prominent elongated mouthparts called palps downward like a stem. This posture allows them to blend in and evade predators by appearing to be a dead leaf. Imagine looking at what you thought was a dead leaf, only to see it fly away as a butterfly. Nature is full of surprises!
What do you see in the branches of our Kousa Dogwood tree? With an abundance of leaves that provide shade, wind protection, and cover from rain, the Kousa Dogwood provides a highly attractive nesting site for songbirds.
Kousa Dogwood differs from the Eastern North American Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) which has rounded rather than pointed bracts, and blooms on leafless branches weeks prior to the Kousa Dogwood’s blooms which appear on branches full of leaves. The green leaves create a beautiful backdrop to the elevated blooms of the Kousa Dogwood.
Small but mighty, the Kousa Dogwood contributes to the beauty of the landscape of Bayne Park year-round. In spring, the profusion of star-like blooms dazzles the eye. In summer, shade is provided by the layered branches covered in vibrant green leaves. Autumn coincides with the showy spectacle of bright red fruit and rich maroon foliage. Winter showcases the patterned bark which stands out beautifully against pristine white snow.
It is always a good time to consult Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning to learn what, when, and where to prune for a more beautiful garden.
Learn more about all the Trees of Bayne Park and explore our Interactive Bayne Park Tree Map to see the locations, photographs, and names of over a dozen different species of trees. Be sure to also visit our Treesources page to learn about local trees, caring for trees, and more.
Written by Linda, Spring 2020