Roughleaf Dogwood

Cornus asperifolia var. drommondii, commonly known as the Roughleaf Dogwood, is a cousin of the more well-known Silky Dogwood. Two smaller specimens can be found in the Riley Garden, adjacent to the Arboretum Outreach Center on the University’s campus. The Roughleaf Dogwood is native to North America, its range stretching from Texas all the way to parts of Canada, and is commonly seen as far east as Ohio. Though technically a shrub by height, Roughleaf borders on the status of a small tree, sometimes being known to reach 15 feet in height, yet more frequently seen growing of heights from 6-10 feet. It has also been noted to thrive in a wide array of soil conditions, seemingly preferring wet to well drained conditions, yet has been seen doing well in dry prairies in the south. As most woody plants do, this dogwood loves to grow in full sun but can be tolerant of some shade. This hardy shrub is commonly found growing along the edges of wooded areas, along streambanks, and in swampy areas.

Roughleaf has relatively small yellowish-white flowers white fruits, which are quickly devoured by birds. Roughleaf is not typically sought for its aesthetic, but ornamentally is considered as good hedge or privacy shrub, growing in dense thickets. Its leaves are simple elliptic/ovate, and arraigned oppositely on its stems. The upper surface of the leaf is glabrous (smooth, without hairs) and mildly glaucous (with hairs) on its underside, giving its leaves a slightly rough feel, hence its name. The base of the Dogwoods genus name, Cornus, has its roots in the Latin word cornu, meaning “horn.” This is likely due to the compact, sturdy nature of its wood. Its stems and branches are flexible, yet break-resistant. Formative pruning from an early age can be desired to achieve a specific growth form in this shrub.

The above information was collected from Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Champaign, Illinois: Stripes Publishing, LLC, 1998) and the website of The Missouri Botanical Garden (

Wirtten by Mark Santamaria