Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry

Origin and Distribution

The Cornelian cherry is native to Southern and Central Europe and Asia Minor. Nowadays the small tree is widely used in gardens and parks especially due to its very early yellow flowers, its decorative edible fruits and its bright autumn colouring.


Cornus mas is a deciduous, slowly growing, though big shrub that can reach a height and width of 4 to 7 meters. It has several strong basic shoots instead of a main trunk. In its youth the Cornelian cherry is upright and loosely branched. When it gets older it resembles more a tree and it gets a wide and round crown with overhanging branches. Young sprouts turn reddish when they are facing the sun. Later they build a brown and flaky bark. Its elliptic leaves are hairy and have undulated edges. In autumn times their colours change from green to a beautiful yellow and orange-red.

Small yellow globular flower umbels appear very early before the leaves shoot (February to April). In late summer shiny red, oval to egg-shaped drupes develop that are sour but edible.

Cornus mas prefers warmer locations and can handle almost any soil characteristics. It takes well any cutting and is very resistant.

Interesting Facts

The Cornelian cherry is one of the most valuable and robust woods in landscape construction. Because of its very early flowering it is extremely important for insects.

Thanks to its fruits and dense branches it also offers food and protection for other animals and birds.

The edible but sour and astringent fruits are very suitable for jam, stewed fruit, juices and wine and are traditionally used especially in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. The hard wood of Cornus mas is extremely dense and even sinks in water.

Garden Design

Cornus mas offers many great opportunities in garden design. They can be used as a specimen tree in smaller gardens, since they are a feast for the eyes during spring and autumn time and have a nice habitus. In summer times the Cornelian cherry is again at the center of interest because of its numerous bright red fruits. Another highlight is the tree’s beautiful colouring in autumn time. The Cornelian cherries can well be used as a hedge, either free-growing or as a cut hedge. In the open countryside the tree often serves for fencing fields and for protection purposes. Another common field of usage is the roadside greenery.