The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Visiting an Old Friend at the Arnold Arboretum

Cornus officinalis in bud along Meadow Road at the Arnold Arboretum

Am I the only one who feels a deep kinship to certain trees? I was in Jamaica Plain yesterday for an art class and visited the Arnold Arboretum primarily to see if the Cornus officinalis was in bloom. I first met this tree about 15 years ago and it has had a lasting imprint on my gardening life.

Two decades ago, the only shrub I knew with very early yellow flowers was the ubiquitous forsythia. I had no idea a plant like Cornus officinalis existed. Like its Asian sibling, Cornus mas, it has clusters of golden yellow flowers in April, long before the more flamboyant blossoms of crab apples and magnolias come onto the scene. Later in autumn, it will have bright red fruit and striking exfoliating bark as its winter asset.

I had read about this small tree and finally got to see it in person at the Arnold Arboretum. This particular plant originated from seed collected in Japan in 1919, the year my father was born. I fell in love with its subtle charms and located a small plant for my own garden. As much as I love my tree, which finally making a presence in my garden, the Arnold tree is my favorite. It reminds me of the excitement of discovery and wonders of plants and places I had never dreamed of.


  1. Cornus mas have been in bloom in our area. I don't think I've ever seen Cornus officinalis, or known of it. Thanks for broadening my knowledge.

  2. We have so many Cornus florida getting ready to bloom in the next couple weeks. The woods are so full I hate to go inside. This is the first I've heard of Cornus officinalis. I am going to look into it for our zone.

  3. James,
    I don't think many people could tell the difference between the two. Both are very garden worthy small trees.

    I wish I could grow Cornus florida here! I miss it from my childhood in PA. I'm sure you could grow C. Officinalis. Thanks for commenting.



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