By MaryAnn Fink

Curator of Living Transport Exhibit

Lead Horticulturist/ Pollinator Junction

Despite the dreary weather, it is time for me to get to know some of the other areas now under my care at the Museum of Transportation. The first “find” of the season is a twiggy bouquet of acid yellow flowers on a youthful specimen of Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas), tucked up against the porch at Barrett Station.

A period of discovery in a new pocket of landscape is glorious for me. It is like no other part of horticulture for me as it is when my relationship with a site literally and figuratively starts to grow. I can only compare it to falling in love!

This preseason bloomer is likely to continue carrying on well into Spring and she looks comfortable despite the chill and the silly Easter snow shower. She looks warm with her yellow flowers showing. It is like she has her own personal sunshine!

I do think she is situated now a little close to the railing, so I am guessing she’s been in place for 10-15 years or more. That is still young for a Cornus mas as they are known to live 50-100 years! 

This dogwood relative can eventually grow into a small, 20- to 25-foot-high tree or large shrub. (I wonder if the planter knew that and intended to limb her up along the way or if the porch came later–see…more to ponder and to love!

 She can thrive if in well-drained soil situation and look equally lovely as a specimen plant, in masses, near a patio, or even as a hedge. 

Cornus mas holds her clusters of small star-shaped yellow flowers close and tight to her branches like an experienced card player. Small flies and honey bees that forage on sunny chilly days in March are her most likely pollinators. Flowers sometime seem like a secret or are protected as if sacred or much too delicate to dance in the wind. This is because she only flowers on older wood and thus the buds are deep set after a good growing year. This year most the flowers are mid-stem and in the midrange of the twiggy stems. Last year must have been good for her as her telltale bloom placement down the stem says last year’s growth averaged 14″!

Her clean medium green leaves do not even consider showing up on this dogwood till flowering has finished.  A short while later she will set her red fruits that earned her the common name of Cornelian Cherry. Although our dogwood is not a food crop, this member of the dogwood family has been used for 7,000 years. Known in ancient Greece, Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is native to regions of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Fruit set is usually after 4th year so our girl is well into her fruitful years. Fruit set is also reported to vastly improve when other specimens are in the area. She’s a loner right now so I will wait and see what she can do on her own.  

“Bee” sure to come see her when you are on the Museum of Transportation’s grounds-upper level parking lot, right corner of Barrett Station’s deck ramp.