It was a rainy day, a very rainy day (we’ve had many rainy days this past winter, but this was a particularly cold and miserably rainy day). There were few visitors in the outdoor areas of the museum, none, in fact. Several rangers, including myself, were standing in the rain discussing the identities of different plants here on campus and how and why they’re growing here, whether or not they were purposely planted here or “volunteered.”
The identity of the tree pictured here (below), buds swelling with bright yellow flowers, was one of the subjects of discussion. This one was obviously a transplant. Several names were tossed around, mostly guesses.
The flower buds were swollen but still closed on the tree of discussion. This tree is planted outside the doors leading to Gateway Park as you leave the main museum building.
Some days later, (another rainy day—a light, misty rain), I was asked if I could identify a small tree growing along the service path on the west side of the Butterfly House. I took a look at the tree. I didn’t know what the tree’s identity was, but it’s bright yellow flowers were in bloom. “It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out what it was and where it came from.” It didn’t seem to have been planted where it grew. I knew it wasn’t a native.
Thank goodness for the internet. It only took a few minutes to nail down an identity. This tree, which appeared to be a volunteer, was a dogwood. Obviously not the familiar flowering dogwood, North Carolina’s official flower, but a tree of the same genus, Cornus.
It’s a tree of another continent. It’s of Asian origin. It’s grown, though, just about everywhere trees are sold and transplanted.
Depending on the reference consulted it’s either Japanese cornelian cherry, Cornelian cherry dogwood, Japanese cornel, or various other common names. In Latin terms, it’s either Cornus officinalis or Cornus mas.
I’ve not positively identified it to species, officinalis or mas, although I’m told by the landscapers here at the museum that it’s probably mas.
It’s planted widely for its habit of blooming early in the season adding color to the otherwise gray and brown landscape. The fruit (late summer to early fall) look like elongated, bright red cherries. But, you can also see the resemblance to our native dogwood fruit in this tree. It is, after all, a dogwood.
I can find no information pointing to the tree being invasive even though the tree alongside the path at the Butterfly House may be a volunteer. The path is no longer used for public passage, the edges overgrown with a variety of plants. There are pyracantha and Bradford pear shrubs and trees sharing the lane with the dogwood. Though widely planted, both of the former are known to readily volunteer themselves.