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Cornus kousa - Buerger. ex Hance.

Japanese Dogwood

AuthorBuerger. ex Hance. Botanical references11, 200, 266
FamilyCornaceae GenusCornus
SynonymsBenthamia kousa - (Miq.)Nakai.
Benthamidia japonica - (Siebold.&Zucc.)H.Hara.
Known HazardsNone known
RangeE. Asia - China, Japan, Korea.
HabitatWoods and scrub in the mountains of Sichuan[109]. Valleys, shaded slopes, by streams and roadsides, in mixed, sparse, and dense woods at elevations of 400 - 2200 metres[266].
Edibility Ratingapple iconapple iconapple iconapple iconapple icon 5 (1-5) Medicinal Rating 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man icon of evergreen tree A decidious Tree growing to 10m by 6m at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.


Woodland Garden; Canopy; Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit; Leaves.

Fruit - raw or cooked[61, 177]. Sweet and juicy[11, 183], it is very nice in small quantities[K]. Very seedy[105]. The skin is rather tough and unpleasant, but the pulp is delicious with a custard-like texture, it is one of our favourite late summer fruits[K]. The fruit is about 2cm in diameter[200]. Young leaves - cooked[105, 177, 183].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known

Other Uses


Wood - very hard and heavy. Used for mallets etc[151].

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility, from acid to slightly alkaline but dislikes shallow chalky soils[184, 188]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a rich well-drained loamy soil and a position that is at least partially sunny[11]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is hardy to about -20c[184]. A number of named forms have been developed for their ornamental value[182]. Plants are slow-growing when young, they speed up somewhat after a few years but then soon slow down again[202]. The sub-species of C. kousa chinensis grows more freely, flowering and fruiting better in Britain though it barely differs in appearance from the species[11]. This species has been known to hybridize with C. capitata[182]. The cultivar 'Norman Hadden' could be such a hybrid[182]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed[80, 113]. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors[80, 164]. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 - 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year[164]. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification[80, 164]. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more[164]. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame[188]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage[78]. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months[78].


'Big Apple'
Growing about 5 metres tall, this variety has very large fruits.
Said to crop reliably and well in Britain.


This plant is also mentioned in the following PFAF articles: Alternative fruits, Woodland Garden Plants, Cornus kousa Japanese Dogwood, The Woodland Edge Garden.


[K] Ken Fern
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1] F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press 1951
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

[11] Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray 1981
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.

[61] Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.

[78] Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co 1948
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.

[80] McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed. Grower Books 1985 ISBN 0-901361-21-6
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.

[105] Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing 1976
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.

[109] Wilson. E. H. Plantae Wilsonae. 0
Details of the palnts collected by the plant collector E. H. Wilson on his travels in China. Gives some habitats. Not for the casual reader.

[113] Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press 1987 ISBN 0942375009
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.

[151] Wilson. E. H. and Trollope. M. N. Corean Flora. Royal Asiatic Society 1918
A very small handbook, it does give a little bit of information on Korean plants.

[164] Bird. R. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 4. Thompson and Morgan. 1990
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. A good article on Yuccas, one on Sagebrush (Artemesia spp) and another on Chaerophyllum bulbosum.

[177] Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books 1984 ISBN 3874292169
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.

[182] Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray 1992 ISBN 0-7195-5043-2
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.

[183] Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.

[184] Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs. Pan Books 1989 ISBN 0-330-30258-2
Excellent photographs and a terse description of 1900 species and cultivars.

[188] Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. 1990 ISBN 0-86318-386-7
Excellent range of photographs, some cultivation details but very little information on plant uses.

[200] Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

[202] Davis. B. Climbers and Wall Shrubs. Viking. 1990 ISBN 0-670-82929-3
Contains information on 2,000 species and cultivars, giving details of cultivation requirements. The text is terse but informative.

[266] Flora of China 1994
On-line version of the Flora - an excellent resource giving basic info on habitat and some uses.



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