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Announcing the Bringing Nature Home plant genus of the year!

Following on last year’s popular introduction of a Plant of the Year, this year we have expanded our choice to name a Plant Genus of the Year: Swida, or shrubby dogwoods!

The botanical name for shrubby dogwoods is Swida, recently changed from Cornus. They are part of the Cornaceae family, which also includes Benthamindia (Flowering Dogwood), Chamaepericlymenum (Bunchberry), and Nyssa (Black Gum). There are several shrubby dogwoods of the Swida genus native to Maine that grow in a variety of conditions making them a great choice for a resilient landscape. These hearty plants are easy to grow and can be propagated by cuttings. Their resiliency makes them a popular choice for ecological restoration projects including erosion control, invasive plants suppression, and wildlife habitat. To help you to determine which dogwood is right for your landscape, use the Maine Native Plant Finder.

Red-twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea
Red-osier Dogwood, Swida sericea (Art by Jada Fitch)

Which species are native to Maine?

Red-osier Dogwood (Swida sericea)
This beautiful flowering shrub has red stems when young. Very attractive to wildlife (including deer), it has colorful autumn foliage as well as striking winter interest.

Alternate-leaved Dogwood (Swida alternifolia (pictured above, at Gilsland Farm)
This small flowering tree is as ornamental as it is beneficial. Its small size and flat-topped growing habit can createan interesting shady spot for a small yard or space, and large white flowers followed by blue/black berries support countless wildlife species.

Silky Dogwood (Swida amomum)
This large, interesting shrub with attractive foliage, flowers, fruit, and stems will form a wide thicket if low stems are allowed to contact ground and root.

Gray Dogwood Cornus racemosa
Gray Dogwood, Swida racemosa (Art by Jada Fitch)

Gray Dogwood (Swida racemosa)
Deer tolerant and very attractive to wildlife, this dogwood is a thicket-forming shrub with beautiful white flowers and white berries that grow on red stems.

Round-leaved Dogwood (Swida rugosa)
Large, oval-shaped leaves make this shrub stand out from other dogwoods in Maine. Its creamy white flowers and blue berries are both highly sought after by wildlife.

Where to plant?

Rain/Wetland Gardens: Is your yard filled with puddles after a rainstorm? If so, the soils are probably slow to drain and would benefit from water-loving plants such as the Red-osier Dogwood, Swida sericea. This dogwood is often found growing in wetland environments and can tolerate periods of standing water and withstand drought. Rain gardens are a wonderful solution to creating better drainage in a developed landscape.

Natural Hedge/Buffer: Many traditional hedge species such as privet are non-native and can be aggressive/invasive. Gray Dogwood, Swida racemosa, is a fantastic buffer plant as it tolerates a range of soil types and suckers prolifically, creating multi-stemmed groups of shrubs.

Riparian Edges/Border Gardens: Silky Dogwood, Swida amomum, is often found along riverbanks, edges of wetlands, or in the margins between meadows and woodlands. These habitat qualities make it an ideal candidate for filling out the middle/back of a border garden or abutting a water feature.

Shade/Woodland Gardens: Gardening is all about the layers, and a woodland garden is no different. When looking to fill the gap from ground cover to canopy, Alternate-leaved Dogwood, Swida alternifolia, is a wonderful choice. Its unique and elegant form of tiered branches stands apart in the understory while adding nesting habitat and food for wildlife.

As we celebrate dogwoods as our Plant Genus of the Year, let us recognize the profound impact these remarkable plants have on Maine’s landscapes and ecosystems. Through our collective efforts to embrace native plants and cultivate connections with nature, we can ensure a brighter future for Maine’s natural heritage and all who call it home.

Upcoming Events

Webinars/Hybrid Events:
March 5, 2024: Coastal Resiliency & Native Plants (online webinar)
March 27, 2024: Humanity for Habitat: Residential Yards as an Opportunity for Biodiversity Conservation (hybrid)
April 16, 2024: Specialist Pollinators & Host Plant Relationships (online webinar)
May 22, 2024: Maine’s Magnificent Trees: Their Role in Ecosystems (online webinar)

BNH Book Club:
March 12, 2024: Soil, Camille T Dungy (in person)
April 9, 2024: These Trees Tell a Story, Noah Charney (in person)
April 25, 2024: Noah Charney Book Talk (hybrid)

More Native Plants events >

Native Plants Festival & Sale
Mark your calendars for this year’s Native Plants Festival & Sale: Saturday, June 8. We will be selling our Plant Genus of the Year, shrubby dogwoods, and as always, a wide variety of other native plants! Stay tuned for details on online sale dates, programs, and plant availability.