A deciduous shrub, sometimes with a cluster of erect stems, sometimes a small tree 20 ft or so high in a wild state, flat-topped and with horizontal branches; young shoots glabrous. Leaves alternate, often aggregated at the end of the shoot, oval or ovate, tapered at both ends, the apex often slender-pointed; 2 to 5 in. long, 1 to 21⁄2 in. wide; bright pale green and glabrous above, more or less glaucous and furnished with centrally attached flattened hairs beneath; stalk 1 to 2 in. long; veins in five or six pairs. Flowers yellowish white, small, numerous, of little beauty, produced during June in flattish cymes 2 to 21⁄2 in. across; flower-stalks downy. Fruit roundish, 1⁄4 in. diameter, black with a blue bloom.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced in 1760. Although this species comes from as far north as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and therefore is capable of withstanding intense cold, it is not infrequently a failure in this country, probably owing to insufficiency of sunlight. Its alternate leaves distinguish it from all other cornels except C. controversa, which is a much larger tree with cymes twice as large, and leaves with usually one to three more pairs of veins.
cv. ‘Argentea’. – Leaves variegated with white; put into commerce by Temple and Beard, U.S.A., before 1900. This is one of the handsomest of variegated shrubs; as in the type, the branches are produced in tiers, making a spreading, flat-topped shrub.