Cornelian Cherry Dogwood: An Early Flowering Tree

Leonard Weber

March 18, 2023

March has been very cold this year so far here in Detroit, but I have begun anticipating flowers that will be blooming soon.

The earliest flowering tree or shrub in Eliza Howell Park is, I think, Cornelian Cherry Dogwood. The buds are now starting to show yellow.


There is only one tree of this species in the park (that I am currently aware of). It is on the bank of the Rouge River. My guess is that a seed (from a garden?) got here either via a bird or by floating downstream. The species is native to western Asia and southern Europe and is sometimes sold by nurseries in this country.

I observed it many times over the seasons last year.


The tree is approximately 20 feet tall, which is close to full size for the species, and clusters of yellow flowers are scattered on the leafless branches in April.

Fortunately, the branches are low enough to allow for close-up looks at the clusters.

Cornelian Cherry, as it is sometimes called, is related not to true cherries but to flowering dogwoods. The edible fruit somewhat resembles a cherry and has often been used to make jams and juice.

The fruit does not ripen all at the same time. The next three photos are all from the same week in late August.

The single seed is large and the taste of the unsweetened berry might be described as tart.

The leaves do not turn until late in the fall.


I only became fully aware of this tree last April, proving once again that there is always something new for me to learn about Eliza Howell Park, no matter how many hundred visits I have made. Now, this spot along the river bank is one of my regular stops, especially in the spring.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood has become another addition to the floral wealth that I can point out whenever I am accompanied by others on my nature walks in the park.

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