Cornus Mas – The Cornelian Cherry

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Robert Pavlis

Cornus mas, photo by Robert Pavlis

Cornus mas is a shrub or small tree that blooms very early in year, even before forsythia. It has attractive yellow flowers followed by red fruit that develops in fall. It does not make a big splash in the garden, but adds a nice touch to a shrub border.

Cornus mas, photo by Robert Pavlis
Cornus mas, photo by Robert Pavlis

The Cornelian Cherry starts to flower very early as soon as the days get warm and it can even flower when there is still snow on the ground. It can also be pruned into an interesting small single or multi-trunk tree. It can sucker a bit.

Cornus mas, photo by Robert Pavlis
Cornus mas, photo by Robert Pavlis

The fruit, properly called a drupe, can be eaten raw, but they contain a large pit and are very tart. They are most often used for making preserves. Birds do like them. A newly planted specimen can flower for several years before making fruit. They are self-fertile but produce more fruit if more than one plant is used to allow for cross-pollination.

Cornus mas, photo by Robert Pavlis
Cornus mas pruned into a tree, source: Philadelphia Orchard Project 

A number of cultivars are available.

Variegata – has variegated leaves

Aurea – has golden leaves

Nana – is only 3 ft tall

Flava – has yellow fruit

Fructu Violaceo – produces purple fruit

Alba – has white fruit

Spring Glow – grows better in hot climates

Golden Glory – has larger flowers and fruit

cornus mas fruit
Cornus mas fruit, source: Stark Bro’s

Cornus mas

(KOR-nus  mass)

Life Cycle: shrub

Height: 5 m (15 ft)

Bloom Time: late winter

Natural Range: South-west Asia, South Europe

Habitat: dry deciduous forests and brushlands

Synonyms:  n/a

Cultivation of Cornus mas:

Light: part shade to full sun

Soil: variable

Water: medium to dry

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Propagation: seed, softwood cuttings

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

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