SOLVED: blue berries, red stems, 9 ft. shrub, zone 5b

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

Hi! I took this photo today and I was wondering if anyone knows what kind of shrub this is? It's full of blue, lavender, and green colored berries and is about 9 ft. high. The stems are red and the leaves are light green. It's growing in full sun in zone 5b.


Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis
Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

It looks like a swamp dogwood. I saw a photo online of a "Northern Swamp Dogwood" that looked just like your photo.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

...otherwise known as Cornus racemosa. I hope the one in my backyard looks like your photo someday!

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

Muddy1, thanks for identifying this shrub! It's living a few blocks from my home and I often admire it as it changes with time. Just a few weeks ago the berries were off-white which looked beautiful with the red stems.


Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

Muddy1, I have posted more pictures here that you had asked for by private message.


Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis
Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)


That third image is simply awesome. You should at least contribute that one to PlantFiles. I'd also suggest that you submit it during the photo competition DG holds annually.

My eyes are watering with delight....

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

ViburnumValley, yes the berries photo is a feast for the eyes! I will send it to Plantfiles but there is still some confusion as to what type of swamp dogwood this is, so Muddy1 and I have been sending private messages to each other and the main problem is that the summer-flowering dogwoods have a history of changing names. Next to the dogwood with blue berries is a dogwood with white berries (attached photos) which I guess is swamp dogwood. The following descriptions of different dogwoods are confusing:

Cornus obliqua, Swamp Dogwood
"Swamp Dogwood is one of the blue-fruited species of its genus. At one time, Swamp Dogwood was considered a subspecies of Silky Dogwood and it was referred to as Cornus amomum obliqua. However, it is now regarded as a distinct species. Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) differs from Swamp Dogwood by having rusty hairs underneath its leaves and its leaves are usually more broad in shape. Another blue-fruited species, Stiff Dogwood (Cornus foemina), differs by having leaf undersides that are hairless and green, rather than whitened; it also differs by having hairless leafy shoots and white pith in its twigs. Alternate-Leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) has drupes that are blue-black; it differs from Swamp Dogwood by having alternate leaves with slightly more pairs of lateral veins (4-6), a more tree-like habit of growth, and twigs with small white pith. Another commonly used name of Cornus obliqua is Pale Dogwood."

Cornus foemina, Gray Dogwood (Stiff Dogwood)
"Fruits July–October, white or pale blue, round, fleshy, ¼ inch in diameter; one-seeded. Fruits borne on red stalks."

Cornus racemosa, Gray Dogwood (Northern Swamp Dogwood)
"Fruit: White, 1/4 to 1/3" in diameter in rounded clusters, maturing in late summer to fall"

Cornus racemosa Lam., Gray dogwood, Northern Swamp Dogwood, Panicled Dogwood
"Fruit: white berry, on red stems"

Cornaceae Cornus amomum Mill., Silky Dogwood
"Fruit: Berry-like drupes developing in flat-topped clusters, 1/4 inch in diameter, bluish with white blotches, maturing in late summer."

Cornaceae Cornus drummondii C.A. Mey., Roughleaf Dogwood
"Fruit: Berry-like drupes developing in flat-topped clusters, 1/4 inch in diameter, white" (picture shows blue fruit)

Cornaceae Cornus sericea L., Red-osier Dogwood
"Fruit: Dull white, 1/4 to 1/3 inch in diameter in rounded clusters."

Cornus Amomum, Silky Dogwood
"Silky Dogwood represents a group of shrub Dogwoods native to Ohio (including Alternate-Leaf Dogwood, Roughleaf Dogwood, Gray Dogwood, and Bloodtwig Dogwood)"

Cornus amomum, Mill., Silky Dogwood
"Silky and redosier dogwood, though very similar, can be distinguished by their pith and fruit color. Silky dogwood has a brown pith in 1-2 year old stems, dark green ovate leaves, yellowish-white flowers which bloom in mid-June, and bluish colored fruit which
matures in September. Redosier dogwood has a white pith, dark green ovate leaves, white flowers, and whitish colored fruit."

Cornus amomum, Silky Dogwood
"pale to porcelain blue fruit, often blotched with white, for a short time in summer"

Cornus amomum, Dogwood
"attractive berry-like drupes that change from white to blue as they ripen in late summer (August)."

Cornus amomum subsp. obliqua, Swamp Dogwood
"blue to white berry-like drupes that ripen in late summer (August)."

Cornus obliqua Raf.
COAMO Cornus amomum Mill. ssp. obliqua (Raf.) J.S. Wilson
COAMS Cornus amomum Mill. var. schuetzeana (C.A. Mey.) Rickett
COPU10 Cornus purpusii Koehne

Cornus amomum Mill., Silky Dogwood
(notice the green stems holding the blue berries and the white fruit on the Gray Dogwood)

Cornus amomum, Silky Dogwood

On the private message board Muddy1 said the blue-fruited one looks like swamp dogwood, but it is difficult for us to know exactly what category the tree is because of the name changes and contradictory information on the web. Therefore, I'm not sure where to add the berry picture on Plantfiles.


Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis Thumbnail by NancyGroutsis
Cross Timbers, MO(Zone 6a)

Thanks DoGooder, for all the dogwood links.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

FIRST: resist using a common name that can refer to more than one species of plant. Only you know which one you mean, and that confuses others trying to assist in sorting out the conflicting information. Use the scientific (botanical, Latin) name - it can only mean one plant.

SECOND: to assist yourself in sorting this out, write down for yourself - from all those descriptions you found - what the differences are between the various shrubby dogwood species. That is the key to ID.

An example is: only one of the species in that long list above mentions alternate leaves, while every other shrubby dogwood mentioned has opposite leaves. Cornus alternifolia will have alternate leaves EVERY TIME, and it won't matter whether you encounter it in flower, fruit or leaf. You will always be able to ID it by that separating characteristic.

You didn't say whether this individual was a cultivated specimen (obviously planted by someone) versus occurring naturally. If you haven't done this already, determine whether any/all of those species you've listed are likely to be growing wild at YOUR site. That would reduce how many species it is worth considering.

Your blue fruited species is likely the most common of the group that gets blue fruit, and your white fruited species is likely the most common of the group that has white fruit. You can pare it down from there by considering the aspects that are observable this time of year:

**what color is its pith (may be disagreeable to some folks)

**smoothness or hairiness of various surfaces of the leaves

**color of the pedicels

This why many lump these species together as "the shrubby dogwoods". Their differences are slight, and their behaviors are really similar.

One way I can reliably separate two of the species I have - Cornus amomum and Cornus racemosa - is by the caterpillars that annually defoliate them. Completely different little beasts, which become completely different winged beauties after they pupate. I do my job by providing a larval host; they do theirs by growing up to entertain me. Both they and the plant additionally feed birds at various points in their life cycle. Winners all around...

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

ilv2grdn, your'e welcome! I have been doing much research to find out what species the blue-berries dogwood is so I can buy one. I tried looking for a little shoot near the roots so I could get one from the main plant, but all the grounded roots are at least 1 inch thick and I didn't want to damage the plant.


Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

ViburnumValley, thanks for the advice on how to identify a plant! I will check the berries to see the color of the pith so I can get more information. So far I think the one with blue berries is Cornus amomum, probably the obliqua variety. I know a nursery that sells Cornus amomum obliqua on the Internet but they only have bareroot shrubs with no leaves about 18" high and I want to be sure it is the same as the one in my picture.

As for whether the dogwoods at the condos were planted or wild, I think they were planted there for ornament because they have different colors, are right next to each other, are pruned regularly to avoid blocking the sidewalk, and I have never seen any dogwoods in the wild woods in my area. Ultimately, I don't have a preference for which cultivar I get so long as it has blue berries on red pedicels. - DoGooder

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Take a look for a definition of pith - it is the interior wood of the stems.

You could attempt rooting woody cuttings of these shrubs, at the same time as you are examining the pith...that wouldn't be damaging since you say that they are pruned regularly anyway.

Also, growing out seedlings from these plants will guarantee that you have the parent's lineage.

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

ViburnumValley, I'm sorry I thought pith was the flesh of the fruit. Anyway, I will check the pith color of a branch and I will research how to propagate a dogwood from seed and branch. So far, I have had no success with propagation by any other method than seed.


Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Isn't that the pleasure and pain of gardening? If it was easy, everyone would do it.

There is a lot of information on line, so take a look at that. If you have the opportunity, take the cuttings at various times and employ several methods to see what works for you. Worst that could happen? Extreme success, which means you can distribute excess plants to worthy recipients.

Good luck in the endeavor - please report back on results (with images).

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

ViburnumValley, okay I will report what my results are but probably not till next year. I read that dogwood seeds should be harvested from the fruit in late October and the new seedlings appear in the spring.


Franklin Park, NJ

I'm new here but for what it' worth I'm going with C. amomum. Per Michael Dirr (my hero!) the pith, which refers to the inside of the stem, should be brown. C. amomum is also native to your area. I agree with ViburnumValley, forget common names, they're worthless.

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

mikerotell, yes this does appear to be Cornus amomum from the many pictures of that cultivar that I've seen:


Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

DoGooder, I'd also like to thank you for all the links, as well as the beautiful photos. I'm glad to see what the berries on my dogwoods, which I believe are Cornus obliqua, might look like next year.

Hopkinton, MA(Zone 5b)

Muddy1, your'e welcome! Thanks for all the information you gave me on the private message board!


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