Cornus amomum is a shrub to 3 m tall, habit arching, young twigs dark red or purple-green, finely gray-hairy near tips, older twigs smooth, pith brown; bark becoming speckled gray, then finely fissured with age; terminal winter buds linear, with 2 scales that do not overlap, tip pointed; leaf scars narrow, horizontal, u-shaped, slightly raised, connected by a line across twig, terminal bud naked, hairy, vein scars 3 (use lens), (Harlow 1946, Petrides 1972).
Leaves opposite, egg-shaped, to 10 x 6 cm, tip pointed base blunt, dark green above pale-waxy below, (Dirr 1991) veins curved upward.
Flowers dull-white, four-parted, radially symmetrical tiny, in flat-topped clusters to 6 cm wide, June; insect pollinated.
Fruit fleshy, blue or part white, about 0.6 cm, 1 ridged seed. Seed load 21%. Pulp nutrients: water 79%, lipid 2%, protein 5%, CHO 55% (White 1989). Fruit eaten and seeds dispersed by birds. Also eaten by raccoons and skunks (Wilson 1993) Leaves & twigs eaten by rabbits and deer (Martin et al. 1951).
Wetland status: FACW.
Frequency in NYC: Common.
Habitat: Wet to moist swamps and woods. Fairly tolerant of light shade but does not bloom well (personal observation). Successional in wet meadows and stream banks. Open freshwater tidal and nontidal marshes, pond edges, flood plain forests, weedy, wet habitats. Slightly acid to alkaline soils, pH 6-8.5. Tolerant of concrete debris, moderate disturbance, flooding, saturated soil for up to 25% of growing season. Moderately tolerant of drought. Intolerant of deep shade, salt (Hightshoe 1988).
Notes: Can be infected by Cristulariella moricola (Deuteromycotina, Hyphomycetes), a leaf spot that may defoliate plants in cool, wet summers. Leaf tissues are killed by toxic amounts of oxalic acid and pectolytic enzymes that degrade cell walls. Lesions vary from tiny spots to grayish brown blotches with a pale center and dark margin. Stressed or wounded plants may be infected by species of Botryosphaeria (especially B. dothidea and B. obtusa, Ascomycotina) that cause opportunistic cankers and dieback. The reproductive state of these fungi often appear as raised, black speckles on bark of infected plants. May be infested by dogwood scale, Chionaspis corni. This is a white scale (Sinclair et al. 1987; Johnson and Lyon 1991).