Chinese (Cornus kousa var. chinensis) and Japanese (Cornus kousa var. kousa) dogwoods came into dominance in America’s nursery when acid rain damage and the resulting rampant anthracnose disease all but destroyed the native American dogwoods (Cornus florida) in the Northeast. As the kousa dogwoods are resistant to anthracnose, they and their hybrid crosses with the American natives have helped restore these lost populations.
Kousa dogwoods are easily distinguished from our native ones, as they feature a much more upright habit, have pointed rather rounded flower bracts and flower about a month later, thus avoiding a late killing frost which often damages flowers of the natives. These eastern Asia natives are small (8-12 feet tall) deciduous trees, and like most dogwoods, have simple, opposite leaves, 2-4 inches long.
The spectacular snow-white color display of bracts, rather than what appears to be four-petaled flowers, actually open below the inconspicuous, yellow-green flowers. Kousas also differ from our natives in that the flowers appear in late spring after the tree has leaved out, rather than the native cultivars which flower in early spring before leaves appear.
Fruits are globuse, pink to red compound berries about an inch in diameter, though toward the end of the season, fruits tend to grow larger, and those that do not fall from the tree may reach 1.5 inches in diameter. These showy fruits are also quite edible, another very desirable trait to add to its already outstanding ornamental value.