Encycl. 2: 116. 1786.
Shrubs, to 5 m, flowering at 0.7 m; rhizomes present. Stems solitary, 2–10 dm apart; bark gray, brittle, verrucose, frequently forming small plates; branchlets pinkish brown, turning green-maroon, and later gray-maroon, 2 proximal internodes densely pubescent, distal internodes sparsely appressed-hairy; lenticels pale lenticular spots on new growth, uniformly scattered, especially on the distal internodes, protruding and extruding corky tissue on 2d year branches; pith white in 1st year branches, brown in older branches. Leaves: petiole 2–8 mm; blade lanceolate to ovate, 1.5–8 × 0.5–4 cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate to obtuse, abaxial surface pale green, adaxial surface green, turning maroon in full sun, both surfaces with hairs appressed, white to ferruginous; secondary-veins 3–4 (–5 on some sucker shoots) per side, evenly spaced. Inflorescences usually elongate, sometimes convex or pyramidal, 2.5–5 cm diam., peduncle 20–40 mm; branches and pedicels yellow-green, turning bright red. Flowers: hypanthium appressed-hairy; sepals 0.2–0.5 mm; petals white, 2.3–3 mm. Drupes usually white, occasionally pale blue, oblate-ellipsoid, laterally compressed, 4–8 mm diam.; stone oblate-ellipsoid, 3–6.5 mm diam., smooth, apex rounded to slightly pointed. 2n = 22.
Phenology: Flowering May–Jul; fruiting Aug–Oct.
Habitat: Fields, meadows, roadsides, fencerows, swamp margins.
Elevation: 0–1500 m.
Man., Ont., Que., Conn., D.C., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., R.I., S.Dak., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
Cornus racemosa, much like C. foemina and C. obliqua, has a coronulate or minutely papillate abaxial leaf surface, visible under high magnification. Cornus gracilis may be a hybrid between C. racemosa and C. foemina. Hybrids between C. obliqua and C. racemosa and C. rugosa are discussed under those species.
"dm" is not declared as a valid unit of measurement for this property.