July 2010 Plant Profile: Cornus elliptica

Taxonomically confusing and indecisive, but I am so enamored by this small tree from China.

We have this stunning specimen growing here at CUH (within the Fragrance Garden, though it’s not fragrant at all) and, each June-July, I stare in amazement at the glossy evergreen foliage blushed in deep red and bronze with a smattering of star-like bracts that cover almost the entire tree from top to bottom.

Cornus elliptica habit

Cornus elliptica in flower

Cornus elliptica

This tree has been referred to as:

Cornus angustata
Cornus capitata
C. capitata ssp. angustata
C. capitata var. angustata
Cornus kousa v. angustata (this is how we currently have it labeled)
C. kousa v. angustifolia
Cornus elliptica
Dendrobenthamia angustata

Potential graduate work to sort all this out? Oh you betcha!

Now, there’s a plant in commerce called ‘Elsbry’ trademarked EMPRESS OF CHINA, selected by John Elsley. While available at a few nurseries here in Seattle, he is not sure we have the heat in the summer to get this plant blooming here in the Puget Sound area, but since our evergreen dogwood at the Center for Urban Horticulture is doing well, perhaps we should be propagating and distributing this cultivar to gardeners here.

Come see this gorgeous tree in person soon as the bracts could fall in a matter of days with the heat wave we’re experiencing!

One Response to “July 2010 Plant Profile: Cornus elliptica”

  1. Walt Bubelis

    Hi Riz: saw this tree today and indeed it’s beautiful. The glossy, red toned new foliage reminded me of camphor leaves. I thought too of Cornus capitata but the foliage on that always was rough to the touch unlike this specimen. Hopefully you’ll get some cuttings to take. Walt