The Cornelian cherry dogwood, Cornus mas, is a little-known dogwood of note. Instead of the showy, white bracts of our native and Kousa dogwoods, this tree has clusters of small yellow flowers which absolutely cover the tree in February or early March. It is a small, dense tree with a rounded form and interesting exfoliating bark, similar to a river birch.
Cornus mas is one of the first trees to bloom in the late winter. It rivals Forsythia (yellowbells) for attracting attention in the still dreary landscape before the glorious spring. The deciduous leaves are glossy, and the growth habit is dense. It seems to perform well in morning sun to light shade conditions and matures around 20 to 25 feet high. It grows well in zones 4 to 8 and has a wide soil pH range of 5.0 to 8.0.
Flowers are followed by grape-sized, bright-red fruits with a single large seed ripening in late summer to early fall. These are edible, somewhat plum-like, and can be used for jams or preserves. There are also yellow fruited and white fruited cultivars. It is native to southern Europe and western Asia, and a lot of selection of improved fruiting varieties has been done in the Ukraine. For more information on this and other dogwoods, see HGIC 1010, Dogwood.