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(Dogwood family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: [Information yet to be added]. •
• Adverse effects: Members of this family have the potential to elicit mechanical injury by virtue of the thorns present on some species. Mechanical irritation can be caused by T-shaped trichomes present on the leaves of at least one species. A potential to elicit irritant or allergic contact dermatitis in rather specialised situations is also evident from the literature. •
• Veterinary aspects: [Information yet to be added]. •

Taxonomic circumscription of the Cornaceae has long been controversial. Willis (1973) described the family Cornaceae as comprising 100 species in 12 genera. Brummitt (1992) listed only 8 genera. Through the application of molecular phylogenetics, Fan & Xiang (2003) reduced the Cornaceae to just two genera, namely Alangium Lam. and Cornus L.. But because of the many morphological differences between Alangium and Cornus, these authors though it desirable to maintain Cornus and Alangium as two distinct families (i.e. Cornaceae and Alangiaceae). Taking into account further molecular phylogenetic evidence generated by Xiang et al. (2011), the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016) in APG IV, Mabberley (2017) and other authorities came to regard the Cornaceae as a family of 2 genera (Alangium and Cornus), each comprising about 50 species of trees and shrubs. Cornus species are found mainly in Northern Temperate regions whilst Alangium species are found mostly in tropical East Africa, India and China through South East Asia to Eastern Australia.

The fruit of Cornus mas L., the cornelian cherry, is edible and is used in preserves.

Alangium kurzii Craib
[syns Alangium chungii H.L.Li, Alangium handelii Schnarf]

von Reis & Lipp (1982) found an herbarium note stating that the juice of the fruit is poisonous to the skin, causing itching.

Alangium salviifolium Wangerin
[syns Alangium lamarckii Thwaites, Grewia salviifolia L.f.]

Citing earlier literature on medicinal uses of plants in North-Eastern India, Begum & Nath (2000) noted that the bark and root of Alangium lamarckii are ground to a paste and applied to boils.

The presence of emetine, cephaeline, and related alkaloids in the seeds of Alangium lamarckii has been documented (Achari et al. 1980, Jain et al. 2012). In sensitised persons, emetine (and probably also cephaeline) may produce intense skin reactions, which can be eczematous or urticarial (Peshkin 1924, Galewsky 1926, Touton 1932). Both cephaeline and emetine are irritating to the eye, a notable feature of this irritating action being the slowness of its onset. Pain is not felt for six or eight hours and severe inflammation does not set in previous to this time (Walters et al. 1917). See also Cephaelis ipecacuanha A.Rich., fam. Rubiaceae).

[Emetine, Cephaeline]

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus controversa Hemsl.
[syns Bothrocaryum controversum Pojark., Swida controversa Soják]
Giant Dogwood, Wedding Cake Tree, Cornouiller des Pagodes, Pagoden-Hartriegel

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus kousa Bürger ex Hance
[syns Benthamia japonica Siebold & Zucc., Benthamidia japonica H.Hara]
Chinese Dogwood, Japanese Dogwood, Korean Dogwood, Kousa Dogwood, Cornouiller du Japon, Asiatische Blüten-Hartriegel

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus macrophylla Wall.
[syn. Swida macrophylla Soják]
Bigleaf Dogwood, Large-Leaved Dogwood

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus mas L.
[syns Cornus mascula L., Cornus nudiflora Dumort.]
Cornelian Cherry, European Cornel, Cornouiller Mâle, Kornelkirsche

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus officinalis Siebold & Zucc.
[syn. Macrocarpium officinale Nakai]
Chinese Dogwood, Japanese Cornelian Cherry, Japanese Cornel Dogwood

The dried berries provide the crude drug Fructus Corni otherwise known as Common Macrocarpium Fruit (shan zhu yu; 山茱萸 or su shuan tsao; 蜀酸枣) used in traditional Chinese medicine. In a text on Chinese materia medica, Stuart (1911) notes that this is a large thorny shrub or tree. However, the Flora of China (Xiang & Boufford 2005) and other sources (for example, Hunt 1968/70) make no mention of thorns or spines.

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus sanguinea L.
[syn. Swida sanguinea Opiz]
Dogwood, Blood-Twig Dogwood, Pegwood, Dogberry, Cornouiller Sanguin, Roten Hartriegels

The leaf possesses T-shaped hairs which pierce the skin when rubbed on the skin in the direction of its long axis, producing erythema or urticaria (Nestler 1913, Wimmer 1926, Woods 1962, Lahti 1986).

Cornus sericea L.
[syns Cornus stolonifera Michx., Swida sericea Holub, Swida stolonifera Rydb., etc.]
Redosier Dogwood

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cornus walteri Wangerin
[syns Cornus coreana Wangerin, Swida walteri Soják]
Walter's Dogwood

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Achari A, Ali E, Ghosh Dastidar PP, Sinha RR, Pakrashi SC (1980) Further investigations on the alkaloids of Alangium lamarckii. Planta Medica – Journal of Medicinal Plant Research 40(Suppl): 5-7 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016) An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 181(1): 1-20 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Begum D, Nath SC (2000) Ethnobotanical review of medicinal plants used for skin diseases and related problems in Northeastern India. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants 7(3): 55-93 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Brummitt RK (1992) Vascular Plant Families and Genera. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens [WorldCat]
  • Fan C, Xiang Q-Y (2003) Phylogenetic analyses of Cornales based on 26S rRNA and combined 26S rDNA-MATK-RBCL sequence data. American Journal of Botany 90(9): 1357-1372 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Galewsky (1926) Über die gewerbliche Schädigung der Haut durch Emetin. [On the occupational injury to the skin caused by emetine]. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 76(28): 857-858
  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Jain S, Chaudhary PN, Gawade VB (2012) Late stages in the biosynthesis of ipecac alkaloids - cephaeline, emetine and psychotrine in Alangium lamarckii Thw. (Alangiaceae). Scientific World 10(10): 24-28 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Lahti A (1986) Contact urticaria to plants. Clinics in Dermatology 4(2): 127-136 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Mabberley DJ (2017) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url]
  • Nestler A (1913) Die hautreizende Wirkung des roten Hartriegels und der Kornelkirsche. [Skin irritant activity of the red dogwood and cornelian cherry]. Die Umschau. Wochenschrift über die Fortschritte in Wissenschaft und Technik 17(41): 860-861 [url] [url-2]
  • Peshkin MM (1924) Bronchial asthma and other allergic manifestations in pharmacists. Journal of the American Medical Association 82(23): 1854-1855 [doi] [url]
  • Stuart GA (1911) Chinese Materia Medica. Vegetable Kingdom. Extensively revised from Dr. F. Porter Smith's work. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Touton K (1932) Hauterkrankungen durch phanerogamische Pflanzen und ihre Produkte (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes) [Skin Diseases Caused by Phanerogamic Plants and their Products (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes)]. In: Jadassohn J (Ed.) Handbuch der Haut- und Geschlechtskrankheiten. Band IV, Teil I. Angeborene Anomalien. Lichtdermatosen. Pflanzengifte. Thermische Schädigungen. Einfluss Innerer Störungen auf die Haut [Handbook of Skin and Venereal Diseases. Volume IV, Part I. Congenital abnormalities. Photodermatoses. Plant toxins. Thermal injuries. Influence of internal disorders on the skin], pp. 487-697. Berlin: Julius Springer [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • von Reis S, Lipp FJ (1982) New Plant Sources for Drugs and Foods from The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press [WorldCat]
  • Walters AL, Eckler CR, Koch EW (1917) Pharmacological studies of the ipecac alkaloids and some synthetic derivatives of cephaeline II. Studies on emetic effect and irritant action. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 10(3): 185-197 [url] [url-2]
  • Willis JC (1973) A Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, 8th edn. (Revised by Airy Shaw HK). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • Wimmer C (1926) Morphologisches über Pflanzen und Tiere, welche Hautschädigungen hervorrufen. [Morphology of plants and animals that cause skin damage]. In: Ullmann K, Oppenheim M, Rille JH (Eds) Die Schädigungen der Haut durch Beruf und gewerbliche Arbeit, Vol. 2, pp. 485-508. Leipzig: Leopold Voss [WorldCat] [url]
  • Woods B (1962) Irritant plants. Transactions of the St John's Hospital Dermatological Society 48: 75-82 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Xiang J, Boufford DE (2005) CORNACEAE. In: Wu Z, Raven PH, Hong D (Eds) Flora of China. Apiaceae through Ericaceae, Vol. 14, pp. 206-221. St Louis, MO: Missouri Botanical Garden Press [url] [url-2]
  • Xiang Q-Y, Thomas DT, Xiang QP (2011) Resolving and dating the phylogeny of Cornales – Effects of taxon sampling, data partitions, and fossil calibrations. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 59(1): 123-138 [doi] [url]
  • [ + 5 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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