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TREES & plants

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.

Cornus officinalis or Japanese cornel