Benthamidia florida (L.) Spach

Locations ofBenthamidia florida (L.) Spach in Virginia

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Botanical Name
Benthamidia florida (L.) Spach
Common Name
Flowering Dogwood
Cornus florida L.
Flora of Virginia Name/Status
Cornus florida L.
Flora of the Southeastern U.S. (Weakley et al. 2023) splits traditional Cornus into several genera (Chamaepericlymenum, Benthamidia, and Swida in our area) representing major clades in phylogenetic analysis. Even though Cornus treated broadly is monophyletic, the clades are also monophyletic and diverged millions of years ago, accorrding to Yu et al. (2017, PLOS One DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0171361) and Fu et al. (2019, Molec. Phylogen. & Evol. 140: 106601). As evolutionary lineages, these clades are far older than many groups treated by taxonomists as genera and clearly merit generic status.

Since the 1980's, rampant infection of this species by the dogwood anthracnose fungus (Discula destructiva) has probably resulted in the mortality of millions of individuals in all parts of Virginia. The ecological consequences of this calamity are potentially severe, for Benthamidia florida is (or was) the dominant understory species in many natural communities, as well as one of the most important sources of food for songbirds and other wildlife. Plants growing in sunny, open habitats are less prone to this fungus than those growing in humid forest understories.
Common (or formerly common) understory tree in a wide variety of mesic to dry upland forests; also in borders, clearings, old fields, and well-drained floodplains. Still common throughout, although less so than prior to the arrival of anthracnose; absent from higher elevations in the mountains.
Native Status

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