Trinity tree of the month - the Himalayan Dogwood

Posted on: 29 November 2023

November’s tree of the month is the Cornus capitata, or Himalayan Dogwood located in the Provost’s garden.  It is just over 11 m tall with a short trunk about one metre in girth. Currently the tree is estimated to store 333 kg of carbon.

Trinity tree of the month - the Himalayan Dogwood

Cornus capitata is a member of the Cornaceae or Dogwood family which are angiosperms, meaning they bear their seed within a fruit. Cornus are a diverse group of small trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials with attractive flowers, fruits and leaves. Cornaceae is widespread and can be found from north-western to south-eastern United States and East Asia,  C. capitata is native to Japan, Korea and China.  

This deciduous tree provides splendour year-round. Its leaves turn a fantastic reddish-orange colour in the autumn and in midsummer you will see show-stopping creamy green bracts which surround the tiny flower clusters, followed by striking large pink-red fruits.  It has a notable open branching structure with mottled tan and grey peeling bark on the mature trees. The flowers and fruits are abundant on the tree, adding to the spectacular display.

The fruit is called ‘syncarp(s)’ as it develops from more than one flower.  They are edible with a sweet tropical and earthy taste but are not generally consumed due to the tough skin and the many seeds embedded in the flesh. It is sometimes used for winemaking, and it can be pressed and its juice made into sauces or dressings.

The Himalayan Dogwood is one of the most reliable and attractive of all the flowering dogwoods. It is a small tree that will reach about 9-12 m in height, with a similar canopy spread, and when mature it forms a rounded shape.  The variety capitate is slow growing, remaining as a shrub until it nears maturity and grows more rapidly before becoming a multi-stemmed tree.

The Genus name, Cornus comes from the Latin word meaning "horn", possibly in reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the scientific name for cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and may also be related to the Greek kerasos meaning "cherry".  You can find a small mature species Cornus kousa in the South Arboretum of Trinity College Botanic Garden.

More information on the Botanic Gardens and its beautiful flora can be found on their website.

Thanks to John Parnell, Stephen Waldren, Michelle Murray and David Hackett for providing this information and looking after Trinity’s many trees.