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The dogwoods are trees, shrubs or woody plants with usually opposite or apparently whorled leaves. The big, showy flowers of some dogwoods are illusionary. The showy, whitish "petals" are really bracts, while the true flowers are much smaller and clustered together in the center. There are usually 4 of these petal-like bracts, but the number may vary. The flowers are regular and usually, but not always, bisexual, with 4 or 5 (rarely 0) small, separate sepals, and a similar number of usually white, separate petals. There are 4 or 5 stamens. The ovary is positioned inferior, consisting of 2 (sometimes 1, 3, or 4) united carpels (syncarpous) with the partition walls present, forming an equal number of chambers. It matures as a berry, or sometimes a drupe, a fleshy fruit with a stoney pit in the middle. As currently described, the Dogwood family includes 7 genera and about 110 species, of which only dogwoods (Cornus) and tupelo (Nyssa) are native to North America. Other cultivated genera from the family include Aucuba, Corokia, Curtisia, Griselinia and Helwingia.
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