Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Roughleaf Dogwood - Cornus asperifolia   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Cornales » Family Cornaceae
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DistributionVery small range in the state, limited to a few areas near the southern coast. Known for certain only from Onslow to Brunswick counties.

This is a strictly Southern species, limited essentially to the Coastal Plain, from southeastern NC to central FL, and west to MS.
AbundanceVery rare to rare, and quite local, in Onslow and Pender counties; perhaps of historical occurrence in New Hanover and Brunswick counties. However, at least at one site in Pender County, near Rocky Point, it is common in a few forest stands. This is a State Endangered species.
HabitatIn NC it is strictly found over calcareous/marl rock, and thus is a specialist of high pH soil. It occurs mostly in the very rare Wet Marl Forest natural community, which is a poorly drained, moist (but not overly wet) hardwood forest type. At Camp Lejeune, a population occurs in the very rare Calcareous Coastal Fringe Forest, a maritime hammock forest type. Both forest types have high species diversity and several other rare plants.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits in August and September.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized to fairly large deciduous shrub that grows to 10-15’ tall. The opposite leaves are broadly elliptic and average somewhat smaller than other dogwoods, averaging about 2.5-3” long. Though typical in dogwood vein pattern, the leaves have a characteristically rough/scabrous texture above and are rather hairy below. As the species has a similar inflorescence – a broad, flat-topped white flower cluster – to most other dogwoods, you normally must get to a shrub and feel the surfaces of the leaves to confirm that you have identified this rare species from the similar but much more common Stiff Dogwood (C. foemina). When not in bloom or fruit, a sapling Flowering Dogwood (C. florida) might resemble this species, and thus you must closely examine the leaves to be sure of identification.
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2018) indicates that the populations of this species in NC and SC have morphology in between that of C. foemina and C. asperifolia farther to the south, and that our plants might be hybrids of these two. Weakley (2020) names this species as Swida asperifolia.

Note that Weakley (2020) treats our species of Cornus in the genera Benthamidia and Swida, based on the assumption that recent and not yet confirmed research will split traditional Cornus. We remain conservative until additional studies are done.
Other Common Name(s)Eastern Roughleaf Dogwood, Southern Roughleaf Dogwood (these names used if C. drummondii is named as Midwestern Roughleaf Dogwood), Toughleaf Dogwood
State RankS1
Global RankG4
State StatusE
US Status
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