Why Use Improved Hybrid Dogwood Trees?

A Brief History of Dogwood Breeding At Rutgers University

Rutgers University's Dr. Elwin Orton has spent over 40 years breeding plants for improved qualities, first with hollies, then with dogwoods. Dr. Orton has developed a world wide reputation for his efforts in plant breeding and has received over 20 awards from garden clubs, horticultural groups, nurseries, plant breeding societies, and landscaping associations for his outstanding work.

Serious problems with the native American dogwood

During the 1970's native American dogwoods, Cornus florida, were under serious attack from insects and diseases and the future of dogwoods used by landscapers was in jeopardy. Of concern was widespread infection of dogwood anthracnose that resulted in extensive damage to trees in both native woodlands and with ornamental dogwoods. Additionally, the dogwood borer was causing serious problems to the health of the American dogwood.

To address concerns for use of dogwoods in landscapes Dr. Orton had a plan to cross-breed the native American dogwood tree with the hardier Asian species, Cornus kousa, commonly called Kousa dogwoods, producing a new and unique hybrid tree. As a result of this strategy, along with Dr. Orton's plant breeding skills and patience, he was rewarded with a much improved dogwood tree. Actually, it took Dr. Orton a quarter century of evaluating experimental hybrid trees in various climates, retesting new hybrid trees with old standard dogwoods, and reconfirming performance before the first series of Rutgers dogwoods reached the market in the early 1990"s.

Disease resistant dogwoods to the rescue

The first commercially available varieties released from Dr. Orton's improved hybrid dogwood breeding program were named the "Stellar Series"® which included the highly popular "Stellar Pink"® variety. Each variety in the "Stellar Series"® - "Stellar Pink"®, "Aurora"®, "Constellation"®, "Celestial"®, "Stardust"®, and "Ruth Ellen"® - has distinct traits such as growth habit; flower shape, size, and color; hardiness; and significantly improved disease resistant.

Dr. Orton's varieties rejuvenate the commercial dogwood nursery industry

The release of the "Stellar Series"® provided dogwood varieties to the landscape industry that were found to be highly resistant to the dogwood borer, while displaying significantly improved resistance to powdery mildew and dogwood anthracnose. With the availability of the "Stellar Series"® dogwood, nurseries immediately embraced Dr. Orton"s new varieties which provided commercial dogwood nurseries unique varieties that were greatly improved compared to the native American dogwood.

Vigorous growth and large flowers attract attention

In addition to the "Stellar Series"® Dr. Orton continued his research and hybridization to improve commercial dogwood trees. Cross-breeding with the Kousa dogwood and Cornus nuttalli produced, after years of hybridization and field testing, the hybrid "Jersey Star"® series of varieties that were commercially released in 2004, the first two new varieties being "Venus"® and "Starlight"®. These new varieties are extraordinarily robust and are distinguished by very attractive large white flowers.

Most recent advancements in dogwood breeding

The most recent new dogwood varieties released by Dr. Orton include "Hyperion"®, an advanced generation hybrid distinguished by extreme vigor, rapid growth, and attractive flowers; and "Red Pygmy"®, and a rare dwarf red dogwood tree, ideal for the small garden.

Rutgers licensees for commercial dogwood production

To insure genetic purity and variety performance with the Rutgers hybrid dogwoods we recommend purchasing trees from nurseries that acquired their inventory from propagators who are authorized licensees of Rutgers University and use the variety trademark by name. See Where to Buy Rutgers Dogwood Trees to contact a licensed propagator who will advise where to find Rutgers hybrids at a nursery near you.

Asexual reproduction of Rutgers patented hybrid dogwoods and use of trademark names without a license agreement from Rutgers University is strictly prohibited.