Native Plant Trust

Benthamidia florida 'Rubra'

pink-bracted dogwood

Flowering big-bracted dogwoods are among our region's signature spring trees, and once even lined the highways of New England. Before leaves emerge in May, this little tree blooms with many iconic four-petaled (or more accurately, bracted) flowers. With finely scaled bark, red berries, and purple fall foliage, this species remains wildly popular, and rightly so. 'Rubra' is not a cultivar, but rather a pink-bracted form that occurs naturally in the wild.

Click on these links to read in detail:  General Description | Benefits | Ecology | References

Height: 12-20 ft
Spread: 8-15 ft

Characteristics & Attributes

Cultivation Status
Part Shade
Soil Moisture
(84) Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens
(59) Northeastern Coastal Zone
(83) Eastern Great Lakes Lowlands
(58) Northeastern Highlands
Ornamental Interest
Fall Foliage
Spring Bloom
Attracts Wildlife
Attracts Bees
Other Pollinators/Wildlife
Host Plant
Deer/Rabbit Resistant
Landscape Use
Attractive Fall Foliage and/or Ornamental Fruit
Red Fruit

North American Distribution

General Description

Bloom Description: Four large white bracts (modified leaves associated with flowers) emerge around the true flowers before the plant leafs out, in May.

Growth Habit & Shape: This small tree grows relatively slowly in sun or partial shade, developing a round or oval crown.

Soil Preferences: Benthamidia florida grows in rich, acidic, well-drained soils that are neither dry nor particularly moist. It does fine in average garden soil, and will tolerate clay soils as well.

Root Description: Roots are fibrous, relatively shallow, and spread laterally.

Garden Uses: Flowering dogwood is a lovely specimen tree in the garden. Its compact growing head and nice flower display make it a choice garden plant, and it may be used in front yards or as a street tree in areas with low air pollution.

Best Management & Maintenance: Plant in well-drained, acidic soils that are rich with organic matter (or well-mulched); space generously away from other trees and structures to ensure plenty of air circulation around the foliage.

Common Problems: Anthracnose is a fungal plant pathogen that has decimated most of the wild-type populations of Benthamidia florida in New England. If Anthracnose has been a problem in your local area, consider a different tree. Other issues include leaf spot and twig blight (all of which are less likely when this tree is planted in an appropriate spot). Young trees may suffer twig loss due to late frosts, but usually recover without issue.


Wildlife Benefits: The berries provide food for birds, and this genus, which is often grouped with the genus Cornus, supports over 100 species of butterflies and moths throughout their life cycles.

Use in place of: Rosa multiflora, Lonicera japonica


Before the proliferation of Anthracnose, this species was integral to the sapling layer of deciduous, mixed, and pine forests throughout New England.

Response to Disturbance: N/A

Native State Distributions:
Canada: ON
USA: AL, AR,CT, DE, D,C., FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, WV. Also present in Mexico.

Wetland indicator status: FACU


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