Bentham’s Cornel (Cornus capitata)

Botanical Name : Cornus capitata
Family : Cornaceae
Genus :
Cornus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Cornales
Species: C. capitata
Synonyms: Benthamia capitata – (Wall.)Nakai.,Benthamia fragifera – Lindl.,Benthamidia capitata – (Wall.)Hara.,Dendrobenthamia capitata – Hutch.
Common Names :   Bentham’s cornel, Himalayan flowering dogwood, and evergreen dogwood.

Habitat : It is native to the low-elevation woodlands of the Himalayas in China, India, and surrounding nations and it is naturalized in parts of Australia and New Zealand. It is grown elsewhere as an ornamental.

Description:
This is an evergreen tree growing to 12 meters in height and 12meters width. The leaves are gray-green and pale and fuzzy underneath, and several centimeters long.Flowers bloom in late spring to early summer (June-July). The showy parts of the dogwood “flower” are the four (infrequently 6), pointed, petal-like, bracts (each to 1.5” x 3.0”) that surround a center cluster of insignificant, greenish-white, true flowers. Bracts are creamy white to pale yellow. Flowers are followed by fleshy, edible, strawberry-like berries that ripen in clusters in fall. In addition to being a good food source for birds, the fruit is also ornamentally attractive. This dogwood is also commonly called Himalayan strawberry tree in reference to the fruits. Genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning horn in reference to the toughness of the wood. Specific epithet comes from the Latin word caput meaning head in reference to the mounding flowers and fruits. The infructescence is a small aggregate of several individual fruits fused into a red body 2 or 3 centimeters across. It is edible but sometimes bitter. There are several varieties and hybri

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It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Cultivation :
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility, ranging from acid to shallow chalk. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade. Prefers semi-shade. This species is hardy to between -5 and -10°c, it grows very well in S.W. England, self-sowing and fruiting prolifically in Cornish woodland gardens and doing well by the coast where it tolerates sea winds. Plants are not hardy in the London area, being killed even when on a south-facing wall. Another report says that it succeeds as far north as Edinburgh. Squirrels are very fond of this fruit. This species has been known to hybridize with C. kousa, the cultivar ‘Norman Hadden’ could be such a hybrid. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Propagation

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 – 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit.

Fruit – raw or cooked. A bitter-sweet flavour, tasting like an over-ripe banana. The fruit can also be used in preserves. The fruit is about 25mm in diameter, it is fleshy with a number of seeds and a tough slightly bitter skin[K]. Our experience is that some trees can produce quite pleasant tasting fruits, but many others produce fruit with a distinct and unpleasant bitterness. The fruit ripens in late autumn to early winter and will fail to ripe properly if the weather is very cold.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Astringent.

The bark is used medicinally. No further information is given, though the bark is a source of tannin which is used as an astringent.

Other Uses

Fuel; Tannin; Wood.

The branches and leaves are a source of tannin. Wood – very hard, close grained but warps when being seasoned. Used mainly for fuel and for making tools..

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cornus+capitata

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornus_capitata

http://www.mobot.org/GARDENINGHELP/PLANTFINDER/plant.asp?code=C938

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