Japanese cornel

Japanese cornel flowering in early spring.

Japanese cornel is very similar to the popular cornelian-cherry dogwood (Cornus mas). It has the same bright yellow flowers in early spring, followed by oblong cherry-red fruits. Flowering occurs slightly earlier on this species and the form is more open. It can be grown as a large shrub or small tree.

Botanical name:

Cornus officinalis

All Common Names:

Japanese cornel, Japanese cornelian-cherry, Asian dogwood

Family (English):

Dogwood

Family (Botanic):

Cornaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Under utility lines

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Parkway/street,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

20 25 feet

Mature Width:

15-20 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Edible fruit,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Showy flowers,
  • Attractive bark

Season of Interest:

  • Early spring,
  • Mid spring,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Open

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • No

Wildlife:

  • Birds

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Japanese cornel in fall color.

A tough, adaptable small multi-stemmed tree or large shrub.
Prune in spring after flowering.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan and Korea.

Bark color and texture 

The bark is a mottled mix of gray, brown and orange.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, simple, oval to elliptical, entire with distinct veins, 2 1/2 to 5 inches  long, dark green above, lighter below.  Fall color varies from yellow to red.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small  (1/8 inch) yellow flowers in tight clusters of about 1 inch wide,  very numerous, appearing before the leaves in early spring.
One of first trees to flower in spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Elongated, bright red drupe, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, ripening in fall.

Location of Cornus officinalis (Japanese cornel) at the Arboretum