The dogwood (Cornus florida) is a deciduous tree that blooms in the spring for two to three weeks. The flowering dogwood is the official state tree and flower of Virginia and the tree of Missouri and flower of North Carolina.
Dogwoods produce clusters of yellow flowers surrounded by four petal-like bracts in either snowy white or pink. Each of the four bracts has a cleft-like tear at the tip. This tear corresponds with a well-known legend about the dogwood tree.
Dogwoods do best in well-drained, acidic soil. They prefer sandy, sandy-loam or medium-loam soils. They grow best in United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 to 9. Prune in the early spring to maintain shape. Fertilize in the spring using an azalea or camellia-type fertilizer. The flowers of the dogwood tree attract butterflies and moths with their nectar.
According to the University of Tennessee, the legend of the dogwood tree is that it once grew tall and was used to make Jesus’ cross, but after that time, the tree never grew big enough to make crosses again. The bracts on the flowers resemble a cross and the cleft-like tears symbolize the nail marks from the Crucifixion.