Foliage Friday: Pacific Dogwood

I’m starting a new series – Foliage Friday – wherein I present a new plant I saw around the area and found interesting.

The inspiration for this series came from my walks around the neighborhood. I see tons of interesting plants, but I don’t know what they are – partly because I’m living in a new part of the country now and am not familiar with the common plants around here, but partly because I so often see an cool looking plant, wonder what is it, it don’t ever bother to look it up!

Well, no more! Every Friday, I’ll present an interesting plant I saw that week. By the end of the year, I’ll have learned about at least 52 new plants and my walks will be richer for it!

Today’s plant is a tree I saw at the VA near the parking structure.

It had weeping branches with gracefully curved clusters of leaves that were starting to turn red.

What interested me about this tree is that there were a few flowers on the tree that reminded me of dogwood tree flowers, but I thought dogwoods bloomed in the spring. It’s September now…hmmm…

After some research using arborday.org and nativeplantspnw.com, I decided this was a Pacific Dogwood (also known as Mountain Dogwood) after all.

The curved leaf veining is apparently characteristic of dogwood trees. As for the blooming, they usually bloom April-June as I’m familiar with, but apparently “flowering may occur again in late summer.” That explains that. It has good fall color – bright red – which is starting to show on the trees near the VA.

Fun facts about the Pacific dogwood:

1. The “flowers,” as we seem them, are not true flowers, since the white “petals” are actually bracts, which are leaves that look like petals. The poinsettia is another plant that has “flowers” made of bracts rather than petals.

2. They are susceptible to a fungal disease called dogwood anthracnose. I think this dogwood has it – see the brown spots on the leaves in the photos above? Anthracnose comes from anthrak– or anthrax-, which means coal (black stone) or a dark skin lesion, and nosos, which means disease. It’s colloquial name is “dogwood leaf blotch.” In the case of Pacific Dogwood, the fungus causing anthracnose is Discula destructiva. Sounds awful!

3. The Pacific Dogwood is the provincial flower of British Columbia. In 1956 a law was passed in British Columbia prohibiting Pacific Dogwoods from being cut down or dug up. The law was repealed in 2002.

Even though I was already familiar with the dogwood, after this week, I am now more familiar with this tree. Stay tuned to see what plants I come across over the next year!

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