The Dogwood Family
This family consists of deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, vines and rhizomatous perennial herbs. The leaves are usually opposite, petiolate without stipules. The blade margins are smooth, serrate or lobed with pinnate or basally palmate venation with the veins paralleling the margins. Flower clusters are cymes, heads, corymbs, umbels or panicles sometimes the cluster has a colorful involucral bract with part of the entire flower cluster posing as a single flower. The flowers show radial symmetry and are bisexual. There may be 4, 5 up to 10 sepals free. Petals are sometime missing but when present there are 4, 5 up to 10 free or fused at the base. There 4, 5 up to 40 stamens per flower that surround a circular nectar disc which itself surround the ovary. The ovary is inferior and composed of 2 (rarely 4) carpels that are fused to form one to four locules. Fruits are drupes or berries often crowned with residual sepals and disc. Cornaceae are distributed mostly across the North Temperate zone. Molecular evidence has reduced this family to two genera: Cornus and Alangium. Several species of Cornus produce edible fruits. Cornelian cherry is the most common where in Eastern Europe its drupes are used in jams, syrups, and cordials. In East Asia C. kousa is grown as an ornamental but its fruits are also eaten. The wood of Cornus is hard and fine grained. It is usedful for making tool handles arrows, skewers, walking canes, furniture. C. florida and C. officinalis are used medically for their high tannin content. Alangium salviifolium is used as an ipecac substitute in India. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ has red stems used in winter decoration and basketry. Cornus means “tough (referring to the wood) in Latin and is the Latin name for C. mas. It is called dogwood because the stiff branches of C. sanguinea were used as dags or skewers.