Cornus sericea, commonly known as red twig dogwood or red osier dogwood, is an upright-spreading, suckering shrub that typically grows in the absence of pruning to 6-9’ tall with a slightly larger spread. With the exception of the lower midwest and deep South, this species is native to much of North America where it is typically found growing in wet swampy areas, wetland margins or along lakes and rivers. Ovate to lanceolate, medium to dark green leaves (2-5” long) acquire interesting shades of red to orange eventually fading to purple in autumn. Reddish stems turn bright red in winter and are particularly showy against a snowy backdrop. Tiny, fragrant, white flowers appear in flat-topped clusters (cymes to 2.5” diameter) in late spring, with sparse, intermittent, additional flowering sometimes continuing into summer. Flowers give way to clusters of whitish (sometimes with a bluish tinge) drupes in summer. Fruit is quite attractive to birds and is generally considered to have as much if not more ornamental interest than the flowers.
Red stems somewhat resemble the reddish stems of some osier willows, hence the common name of red osier dogwood. Some cultivars of this species (e.g., C. sericea 'Flaviramia') have yellow stems.
Synonymous with and formerly known as Cornus stolonifera.
Genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn in probable reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry.
Specific epithet from Latin means silky in reference to the hairs present on young twigs and upper leaf surfaces.
‘Neil Z’, commonly sold in commerce under the trade name of PUCKER UP, is a compact upright red twig dogwood cultivar that typically grows to 3-4’ tall and as wide. It is particularly noted for its rugose green leaves which are noticeably puckered as suggested by the trade name and for its showy bright red winter stems. It is primarily distinguished from species plants by its (a) more compact size (species plants mature to 6-9’ tall) and (b) glossier, thicker, somewhat smaller, rugose leaves. It is a naturally occurring branch mutation of an unnamed selection of Cornus sericea which was discovered and selected by Neil Zureick in a controlled nursery setting in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2006. U.S. Plant Patent PP24,812 was issued on August 26, 2014.