Chinese Dogwood

(Cornus kousa) var.Chinensis

Cultivar tested

‘Big Apple’

Description and site preference

Type and size – small tree, about 12 feet
Hardiness zone – 5-8
Exposure – full sun to part shade
Soil – organically rich, course textured
Drainage – well-drained

Economic factors

Years to harvest – 3-4
Maintenance – medium, maintained as small tree
Life of planting – no reference found
Machine harvest potential – none
Suitable markets – fresh

Notable features

Nutritional highlights – not known
Adaptability – did not adapt to test site
Pest issues – few (resistant to dogwood anthracnose)
Invasive potential – low
Environmental benefits – unknown

Integration characteristcs

Shared management – could not evaluate
Shared equipment – could not evaluate
Shared processing – could not evaluate
Co-marketing – could not evaluate

Integration potential– could not evaluate

History and background

This member of the Comacae family has a close relative with similar characteristics, var. Kousa, known as Japanese dogwood. The Chinese dogwood’s native range is Eastern Asia, Japan, Korea, China. It is closely related to the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and does not have invasive characteristics. Chinese dogwood is resistant to dogwood anthracnose disease and is often planted as an alternative to C. florida, or hybridized with it for resistance.

Not only is Chinese dogwood a beautiful ornamental shrub, but it is also said to produce an edible, sweet, delicious fruit. Carandale found little information about the uses and nutritional value of the fruit, but decided to observe it in their test plot. This dogwood was described as a small deciduous tree that was vigorous, disease resistant, adaptable to most soils and easy to grow. Winter hardiness was rated at -20 degrees F, the lower limit for consideration.

Observations at Carandale Farm

Carandale ordered two plants from One Green World in 2003. The cultivar selected was ‘Big Apple’, named for its large fruits. Carandale was not aware of any other cultivars available at the time.

Adaptability issues started to show up almost immediately after transplanting. Practically none of the terminals broke bud, and the laterals were slow to leaf. Dead terminals were pruned out and by mid-summer plants looked better but lacked vigor. Despite a mild winter with temperatures barely falling below -15 degrees F, the Chinese dogwoods winter-killed. A few buds eventually leafed out, and some new growth emerged. They did not meet Carandale’s adaptability requirements and were removed.


Many unusual fruits from southeast Asia are not adaptable to Carandale site conditions. Chinese dogwood, kiwi and magnolia vine have either died or struggled to survive. This is almost certainly a soil type issue. Kiwi demands deep, well drained soils with uniform moisture. It stands to reason that other plant species that co-evolved in that region would be most adaptable to similar conditions.

In the case of the Chinese dogwood, there may have been other issues, as indicated by lack of bud break in the planting year. But the poor overwintering could be associated with soil incompatibility. The Missouri Botanical Garden states that Cornus kousa is “best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.”

All of the fruit species should be observed in a variety of conditions (soils, climate, etc.) to determine a range of adaptability and versatility. Every integrated fruiting system will need to be custom designed based on these performance variables.


Wikipedia entry on Chinese Dogwood
One Green World information on Chinese Dogwood
Missourit Botanical Garden information on Chinese Dogwood 

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