So, on Saturday I was wandering around the city with my friend Jack. We were a block away from Madison Square Park, so I insisted that we walk through the park. I was really looking for Red Maples budding since I think that's not just a sign that spring is coming, but more importantly, that winter is over. Alas, it was too soon for the red maple buds to show a pink sheen indicating they would soon bloom.
However, Cornus mas was in bud and is about a week away from blooming.
Soon, these blooms will be evident all through Central Park. If you are known among your friends as a plant-person, people who live near the park will begin to ask you what these plants are.
I'm a little lukewarm on this plant. On the one hand, it blooms at a time of year when we all need some sign of spring. But on the other, it's habit is scraggly and in the fall, when the fruit drop, it's very messy and smelly. The fruit look like small cherries, thus the reason its common name is Cornelian Cherry.
I have vivid scent-memories of this plant from my college days at Virginia Tech. It was planted all around the garbage dumpsters next to the dining hall. Each fall, as you walked to dinner, the smell of Cornus mas and half-eaten burritos would waft past you. It was foul. On the bright side, the stink diminished your appetite and helped shave your freshman fifteen down to a mere ten.
Regardless, even if Cornus mas isn't a favorite, it's still a harbinger of warmer weather and none of us can turn our noses up at that.
...what I really would love to know is why all the early-spring plants have sulfur yellow blooms. Cornus mas, Jasminum nudiflorum, Hamemalis and Forsythia all have a similar color for their blossom. My best bet is that some kind of bird is attracted to them all, as it must be too soon for insect pollinators...