Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Flowering Dogwood - Benthamidia florida [= Cornus florida]   (Linnaeus) Spach.
Members of Cornaceae:
Only member of Benthamidia in NC.
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Section 6 » Family Cornaceae
Author(Linnaeus) Spach.
DistributionPresent across the entire state, though likely scarce in a few far eastern counties. Presumably present in all 100 counties.

This is a classic Eastern U.S. species, occurring in all states from ME to FL, and west to IL and TX, being absent only from IA, MN, and WI.
AbundanceCommon to abundant across the entire state, except uncommon at best in the far eastern counties, close to Albemarle Sound. Seen easily on most walks into forests and woodlands across the state. Note: Since the 1980s, the dogwood anthracnose fungus has killed many trees, especially those in forest interiors and other humid sites. Fortunately, trees growing in drier sites, and at sites more exposed to the sun, have mostly escaped the fungus, so far. This fungal threat is the reason that the species is no longer considered by NCNHP with an S5 global rank, but only an S4 rank. Nonetheless, the species is still common to very common in nearly all 100 counties, and this website would prefer to rank it as [S5] to base it on its current rank, not its projected rank into the future.
HabitatThis is a classic and characteristic species of mesic forests, mostly in oak-hickory or mesic mixed forests, as well as many pine and mixed pine-hardwood forests. It has a good tolerance for soil moisture, being found in dry forests as well as quite rich, moist ones, including bottomlands. However, it is not considered to be a wetland species.
PhenologyBlooms from late March into April; fruits in September and October.
IdentificationThis is one of our most familiar trees, being the State Flower (as opposed to State Tree). It is a small to small-medium tree, growing to about 40-50 feet tall on average, and is always an understory species where it occurs. The leaves are deciduous, opposite, and are broadly elliptical, to about 3 inches long. The side veins are parallel coming off the mid-vein, but curve as they approach the margins, as do all dogwood leaves. It has unique flowers, as all know, though the four white or pinkish-white “petals” are just leafy bracts, and not petals. The small flowers are yellowish and grow in a small and dense cluster surrounded by the white bracts. The fruits are bright red, and they are a favorite food source for American Robins and other birds starting in October and into early winter, if not stripped completely by the birds before then.
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2020) names this species as Benthamidia florida, following recommendations of several recent references. Note that the Benthamidia species have four showy petal-like bracts surrounding a compact cluster of small flowers, completely different from the Swida species, which have broad, rounded to flat-topped inflorescences of white flowers that lack bracts.

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieWalthour Moss Foundation, 13 Sept 2012. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieRaven Rock SP. 9 Apr 2011.
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