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Round-leaved dogwood is one of our rarest native shrubs. It is at once distinctive as a member of the dogwood family, with veins running towards the tip of the leaf, instead of off to the sides. Rarely exceeding 10 feet (3m) in height, this woody shrub lacks the tree like shape of alternate-leaf dogwood, and the low thicket form of red-osier dogwood. It has red-hued twigs with purple spots. The leaves are simple and opposite, with strongly paralleled veins. Its flowers are creamy white and four-petaled with reduced sepals but with four stamens, distinctively longer than the petals, surrounding a single white style. After flowering in early July, the fruit matures into a cluster of round berry-like drupes which are white, and then take on a distinct bluish tinge, perched upon dull red stalks. Some distinctive features of round-leaved dogwood include small soft hairs on leaves, and of course generally larger and rounder leaves than our other native dogwoods.
Round-leaved dogwood is naturally found in semi-open woodlands and forest edges. If soil moisture levels are low than it prefers light shading. It can also grow in open wet areas such as the edges of marshes.
Like our other native dogwoods, this shrub is quite easy to grow from seed, despite its rareness. In September, collect the ripened fruits that are full-sized and have at least started to turn blue. Put the fruit in a small bucket of water and mash with your hands. Once the fruit has been separated from the seed, the pulp will float to the surface while the seed will sink. You may have to do this a few times, changing the water each time.
When you have clean seed, you should plant them as soon as possible. At Macphail Woods, the germination has been very good when planting the seeds every 2 inches (5 cm) in rows 4 inches (10 cm) apart, at a depth of 1/4 inch (6 mm). Most seeds germinate the following spring.
Round-leaved dogwood also root suckers quite prolifically. These suckers can be cut off at the roots and transplanted into a shady location for a few years to grow more roots. Then they can be moved out to appropriate planting sites.
Large blooms and delicious berries make the round-leaf dogwood an excellent shrub for wildlife. Pollinators such as bees, wasps, beetles and flies make use of the flowers. The late summer berries provide food sources for a variety of birds including woodpeckers, purple finch, cedar waxwing, American robin, and evening grosbeak.
Areas of Usage:
Round-leaved dogwood is a showy shrub. A more contained and upright form than its cousin red-osier dogwood, it is a shapely medium sized shrub. Its blooms are prominent and its wildlife uses varied. It makes an excellent landscaping shrub for slightly shaded areas or open moist sites. Whether in a naturalized planting or as a showpiece shrub, this plant can really enhance your yard. It is also great for restoration plantings, especially along open riparian zones and wetlands. It helps to restore biodiversity to the site, attracts pollinators, and provides fruit sources for wildlife. It can also be an excellent nesting shrub for local birds.
Round-leaved dogwood is another woodland plant that helps diversify forests and forest edges, not only in species and food sources, but also in vertical structure. Many birds like to feed at one level, and nest at another. Diversity in plant height also gives vulnerable prey species more places to hide from predators.