Unlike many other plant species Cornus alba – the Siberian dogwood – is one which is at its most spectacular in the autumn and winter months and is beautiful, not because of its flowers but because of its vibrant red stems.
The Cornaceae includes the native Cornus sanguinea (Common Dogwood) which is also found in woodland on campus. Siberian dogwood was introduced to England in 1741, indeed from Siberia, although it is also native to northern China and Korea (Symes & Harvey, 1996). It is a popular ornamental plant used in horticulture and landscaping due to the bright winter stems.
On the Whiteknights campus Siberian Dogwood has been planted around the lake, similar to the conditions in which it is found in its native country, however it can tolerate a range of soil and moisture conditions and adapts well to drier environments (Royal Horticultural Society, 2012).
The leaves of the dogwood are unique and if pulled apart are held together by cotton like threads that pass through the veins creating a beautiful parted leaf illusion. They are oval in shape and arranged along the stem oppositely. In the months of May and June the Siberian dogwood has small creamy white flowers with four petals arranged in clustered umbels. In autumn the plant produces white fruits which are often slightly tinged blue.
The berries are a food source for moth and caterpillar species as well as some birds and mammals.
Royal Horticultural Society. (2012) Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’. [online] Available from: http://www.rhs.org.uk.
Symes, M. and Harvey, J.H. (1996) Lord Petre’s Legacy: The Nurseries at Thorndon. Garden History, 24, 273-274.
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