Press Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) is a medium-sized, native in the dogwood family (Cornaceae), and its blue berries are savored by many songbirds. More than 45 types of songbirds and game birds have been documented consuming the fatty berries in the fall.

Silky dogwood has simple, opposite leaves that turn a brownish-red color in the fall. The twigs are reddish to purplish-brown and contain a brown pith, which is sometimes helpful for identification. The plant reaches 10-12 feet in height and 6-10 feet in width. It can withstand full shade to full sun but needs moist or wet soils to thrive. Because of its preference for wetter areas, silky dogwood is sometimes referred to as swamp dogwood. Around June, white blooms form in clusters which are visited by a variety of bee and butterfly pollinators. The pollinated flowers turn into dark blue fruits by early September.

Photo of purple berries
Silky dogwood fruits by Dan Mullen Flickr CC by NC ND 2.0

Silky dogwood is a host plant for the spring azure butterfly. It has also been found to support several specialist bee species in theAndrenagenus. The berries’ high fat content makes them a favored food among migrating songbirds. One caution: deer also love to browse silky dogwood, so it is best not to plant this in areas with high deer densities.

Silky dogwood is susceptible to scale and infrequently can be impacted by powdery mildew, blights, borers and leaf miners.

Similar dogwood shrubs includered osier dogwood(Cornus sericea), which provide brilliant fall and winter color to landscapes as well as gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) which sports white fruit.

Happy holidays HabiChat fans!

While I am not a big fan of wintertime, I am excited to see new visitors to my backyard.

Since winter is a great time for bird watching, much of this HabiChat is dedicated to projects and plants that will help local bird species. Learn about local research on native plants and how they help native birds, read up on evening grosbeaks and why their return to Maryland is special, learn about our native silky dogwood, and finally, keep an eye out for finch eye disease.

Winter is also a time for maintenance projects, so don’t forget toclean out and repair nest boxesandprune your shrubs and trees. Remember, water is crucial to many species this time of year. Consider adding a heated bird bath or pet water bowl to your landscape to help local wildlife. If you are looking for fun projects to do with the kids, try awinter safarior makingseed wreaths.

In addition, the University of Maryland Extension’s Woodland Stewardship Education has several upcoming events that may be of interest to backyard enthusiasts. Registration for the spring session ofThe Woods in Your Backyardonline course will be open soon. This self-paced, non-credit course runs 10 weeks from March 5-May 21, 2019, helping landowners convert lawn to natural areas and to enhance stewardship of existing natural areas.

As a final note, theMaryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlasis now available, containing information on more than 80 reptile and amphibian species. Data was collected by local biologists and nearly 1,000 community scientists. Each species isgiven a detailed account of identification characters, life history information, and where it was found across the state.

Happy Habitats,
Kerry Wixted

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...