Facts About The Kousa Dogwood Tree And Its Sweet-Tasting Fruit
The Kousa dogwood tree has a characteristic that sets it apart somewhat from almost all of the other dogwood trees you're apt to come across. The Kousa is a rather small dogwood, seldom attaining a height of more than 20 feet, although a 25-foot tree may occasionally be seen. The tree has bark that flakes easily, and like many dogwood species has creamy white or pink flowers. To be more precise, what we often call the flowers or blossoms are actually bracts. The flowers themselves are quite tiny, green, and generally inconspicuous. The bracts however are very attractive and for most varieties stay on the tree for a number of weeks. But, that's not what sets this dogwood species apart.
It's The Edible Fruit That Makes The Difference - What sets the Kousa dogwood apart is that the fruit that grows on the tree is quite edible. It isn't some semi-bitter tasting fruit that only a dedicated survivalist could eat and enjoy. The fruit looks something like, as one person describes it, a “raspberry on steroids”. As far as its flavor is concerned, Kousa dogwood fruit may or may not take a back seat to the raspberry, but it is very sweet and tasty. You'll even find a good many recipes that use Kousa dogwood fruit as an ingredient. If you suspect there may be a Kousa dogwood tree in your neighborhood, ask your neighbor if you might pick some of the fruit. Chances are you'll quickly be given permission to do so, unless your neighbor has already sampled the fruit. When a Kousa dogwood drops its fruit, it often drops it by the bucketful, leaving quite a mess to be cleaned up later. Once someone tastes the fruit of the Kousa, any fruit falling to the ground will definitely be seen as a waste. If the fruit isn't completely ripe, it may make you pucker a bit if you sample it, although it will still taste good. About the only negative thing about the fruit is that it contains quite a few seeds. If the seeds are strained out however, Kousa dogwood fruit makes a wonderful jelly. Some will tell you that a good wine also can be made from the fruit of the Kousa. Others say the leaves can be boiled and eaten, although the readily available recipes seem to be for the leaves from a type of Kousa squash vine, and not for the dogwood's leaves. In any event, the fruit is definitely safe and delicious to eat. You can try the boiled leaves at your own peril!
The Kousa dogwood can be grown either as a shrub or as a small tree. Its bark has somewhat of a camouflage pattern, a combination of tans and browns. The leaves are about 4” long, they somewhat resemble those of a lilac, and are dark green in color, turning to a scarlet and eventually to a bronze color in the fall. The Kousa dogwood is a deciduous tree.
Varieties Of the Kousa Dogwood Tree - There are roughly 30 listed varieties of the Kousa dogwood tree. Whether or not all of the varieties have edible fruit isn't specified, but there is certainly a wide variety to choose from when it comes to characteristics such as height, tree or shrub, bract color (mostly white but a few pink), length of the flowering period, and tree shape. Some varieties are quite low growing, and have a spreading habit. Others take on a weeping-willow characteristic. Some varieties flower and/or set fruit more abundantly than others. The names of some of the varieties of Kousa dogwood may encourage you to search for a photo or an image of the tree. Names of different varieties include Big Apple (extra large fruit), China Girl, Milky Way, Moonbeam, Madam Butterfly (the bracts turn vertical, making the tree appear to be filled with butterflies), and Bon Fire (multicolored fall leaves).
One reason for the popularity of the Kousa dogwood tree, aside from the fruit, is its resistance to a common dogwood disease, anthracnose, a fungal disease that at times can be fatal to a dogwood. In areas where this disease is sometimes present the Kousa dogwood is often planted as an ornamental or landscape tree instead of some other species of dogwood.
Kousa Dogwood Care - As far as caring for a Kousa dogwood, it's considered to be a low-maintenance plant, a plant that more or less takes care of itself. The Kousa dogwood is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 8. It can be planted either in full sun or in partial shade, and likes a well-drained, fertile soil that needs to be kept moist, but bit wet, during warm weather. Special care must be taken not to over-water the tree. While the Kousa dogwood can tolerate fairly cold weather, the roots, which are somewhat shallow, should be mulched before winter sets in if very cold weather is anticipated. The bark is fairly tender, so a Kousa dogwood should not be planted where it is apt to be struck by a lawnmower or some other mechanical device. The Kousa is a tree definitely worth considering, as long as you don't let too much fruit fall to the ground.