The Dogwood is a deciduous, densely brachiate shrub which is easily identifiable, even in the winter, thanks to the red colour of its bark. It normally reaches a height of up to 4m. It is the most common type of shrub in the wetlands and can be found nearly everywhere. It propagates quickly by way of robust tillers.
In Central Europe, the Dogwood develops into a shrub formed by dense, twiggy growth with a rounded, sometimes drooping top. It may reach a height of up to 5m and live up to nearly 80 years. It forms a prodigious number of stump suckers, root suckers and offshoots. Sometimes referred to as the Bloodtwig Dogwood, this shrub gets its name from the glowing red to reddish-brown bark of its annual twigs. This reddish colouring is due to pelargonidin, a plant pigment found in sub-epidermal tissue and most commonly present in the side exposed to light. Older trunks exhibit a grey-brown scale bark. In contrast to the Cornelian Cherry, its flower buds and leaf buds may not always be easily differentiated. Both are around 6mm long, oblong and lacking bud scales. The lateral buds lie close to the shoot while the terminal leaf buds are tongue-shaped with many points and are larger than the lateral buds. The paired leaves are 4-10cm long, 2.5-5cm wide and, unlike the Cornus mas, the entire leaf surface is covered with sparse hairs. Tops of the leaves are bright green and undersides also green, but dull. The leaves turn flaming, blood red in the autumn. And again, unlike the Cornelian Cherry, the Dogwood flowers only after foliation. Between 20 and 50 white flowers are arranged along an elongated, terminal umbellike panicle. The berry-like fruits are globate, around 5-8mm thick, blue-black in colour and bitter to the taste. The wood of the Dogwood is tough, difficult to split and very hard. Sapwood and heartwood have the same reddish-white colour.
The Dogwood is found nearly all across Europe: to Ireland and southern Norway to the north, to central Spain, Sicily and Greece to the south, and all the way to Russia in the east. In Austria, the species may be found in all provinces. It is the most common shrub in the Donau-Auen National Park and may be found nearly everywhere.
Endangerment and Conservation Status
Not vulnerable in Austria or in Europe.
The Dogwood thrives in loose, calcareous soils on plains and in the hill country up to elevations of 1200m. Also found in riparian forests, on river banks, in moors, on dry slopes and as underwood in moist deciduous forests rich in herbs. Tolerates full shade locations and can be found in nearly all areas of the National Park.
Dogwood timber is highly sought after by turners. In former times it was used in shoe-making and as cogs. Deadbolts for farm houses and stalls were also produced. The pulp of the Dogwood contains such high levels of vitamin C that it is often used in the production of fruit juices. Raw, the fruit is inedible. The shrub is often nibbled upon by wild animals; it helps stabilise the soil and is a pioneering plant in weakly-developed soils. Chief characteristic is the red hue of the annual twigs which lend bright dashes of colour to the landscape, particularly in winter.