Cornus was what the Romans called the red-berried Cornelian cherry (C. mas), which grows into a small tree. The word cornus also means horn and may be a reference to the strong and durable timber. Nowadays the genus Cornus includes two herbaceous and about 40 woody species, mainly in Eurasia and North America.
This subspecies of Siberian dogwood is a broad shrub whose lower branches often touch the ground, when they can root. The inflorescences are white, and produce round, remarkably white berries, sometimes with a bluish tint. The colours of foliage and stems vary and the most colourful forms are sold as nursery varieties. The most popular in Finland has been the so-called “coral dogwood” (C. alba ‘Sibirica’), whose stems are a very strong red when grown in full light, even in winter.
American dogwood (C. alba subsp. stolonifera) differs from the eastern subspecies in the shape of its narrower leaves, slightly earlier flowering, rounder white berries and abundant root suckers.