Cornus capitata

Cornus capitata (340)

Other names (synonyms):

  • Benthamidia capitata
  • Benthamidia fragifera

Common names:

  • Bentham's Cornel
  • Himalayan Flowering Dogwood

Location in the Gardens:

Season of interest:

  • Creamy yellow 'flowers' in summer
  • Red strawberry-like fruits in autumn

Description of plant:

A spreading bushy evergreen tree with grey-green leaves up to 12cm long.

In Summer green true flower clusters 1.5cm across are produced and surrounded by sulphur-white bracts 4-5cm long, which to a layman are the 'flowers'. The flowers are followed by pendent red strawberry-like fruits.

The tree can grow to a height of 12 metres and a spread of 8 metres over a period of 10-20 years.

Propagation is by seed in autumn or stratify and sow in spring, or alternatively by semi-hardwood cuttings. Cornus capitata is generally pest and disease free, but can be affected by cornus anthracnose.

Ideal growing conditions and habitat:

Full sun or partial shade, in a south, west or east facing position, which can be either exposed or sheltered.

Remarkably for a Himalayan species, it stands exposure to sea winds very well.

Best grown in fertile humus-rich sand, clay or loam soils that are well-drained or moist but well-drained, including acid and neutral pH. Pruning should be minimized.

Frost-hardy to -15 degrees Centigrade.

Country of origin:

  • Himalayas, China

Highdown history:

Sir Frederick Stern in his book, 'A Chalk Garden', explains that the Highdown plant was raised from seed sent back by The Hon. H.D. McLaren, later Lord Aberconway, who took over George Forrest's collectors after Forrest's death in China in 1932. It was planted out in 1939, flowered first in 1949 and set seed in 1950.

By 1960 Stern describes it as a large charming Chinese evergreen tree, which blooms in early July with sulphur-white flowers, and does best on a hot sunny border protected from the north and east. He is concerned that the buds it forms in autumn may be spoilt during a succeeding severe winter.

Highdown is the eastern most garden in Britain where Cornus capitata is known to flourish. The first specimen plant introduced into the United Kingdom came from the Himalayas in 1825.

Back to top