A shrub six to ten feet high. Leaves. - Rounded, abruptly pointed. Flowers. - Small, white, in flat, spreading clusters. Calyx. - Minutely four-toothed. Corolla. - Of four white, oblong, spreading petals. Stamens. - Four. Pistil. - One. Fruit. - Light blue, berry-like.
The different members of the Dogwood family are important factors in the lovely pageant which delights our eyes along the country lanes every spring. Oddly enough, only the smallest and largest representative of the tribe (the little bunch-berry, and the flowering-dogwood, which is sometimes a tree of goodly dimensions), have in common the showy involucre which is usually taken for the blossom itself; but which instead only surrounds the close cluster of inconspicuous greenish flowers.
The other members of the genus are all comprised in the shrubby dogwoods; many of these are very similar in appearance, bearing their white flowers in flat, spreading clusters, and differing chiefly in their leaves and fruit.
The branches of the round-leaved dogwood are greenish and warty-dotted. Its fruit is light blue, and berry-like.
The panicled dogwood, C. paniculata, may be distinguished by its white fruit and smooth, gray branches.
The red-osier dogwood, C. stolonifera, is common in wet places. Its young shoots and branches are a bright purplish-red. Its flower-clusters are small; its fruit, white or lead-color.
The bark of this genus has been considered a powerful tonic, and an extract entitled "cornine," is said to possess the properties of quinine less strongly marked. The Chinese peel its twigs, and use them for whitening their teeth. It is said that the Creoles also owe the dazzling beauty of their teeth to this same practice.