The Flowering Dogwood or Cornus florida is an ornamental tree that blossoms in the springtime as the leaves are unfurling. Landscapers and homeowners prize its delicate lace-like beauty. Early settlers valued the hardness of its wood.
The "Crucifixtion" Flower
Native Americans used the dogwood to create dyes and tinctures of scarlet. Settlers in the 1700s used the dogwood bark to make a tea believed to reduce fevers and ease colds. In the late 1880s the Century Unabridged Dictionary claimed the lack of silex (silica) allowed watchmakers to use tiny splinters to clean certain components of watches. The lack of silica meant the wood did not scratch or wear out items it came in contact with.
Dogwood was been used to make forks, spoons, bowls, hay forks and mallets, spindles, bobbins and other parts of spinning wheels, crochet hooks and knitting needles and a wide variety of small tools.
Flowering Pink Dogwood
There is a story that dates back 2000 years relating to the dogwood. It is said that at that time, only one type of tree grew large and strong enough to construct the crosses used to crucify criminals. There was a forest of them that local woodsmen and craftsmen used. When Jesus was to be executed, the Romans ordered a such a cross form the local woodsmen. It was delivered and served it’s deadly purpose. Three days later the chief wood gatherer was informed that all the trees in that forest were shriveling. He went to see this for himself and found it be true. Years later the wood gatherer learned that people visited the forest every year in the springtime. He again went to see for himself and learn why. Astounded he found people wandering among thousands of beautifully flowering shrubs. A former employee told him that no one could make crosses from the twisted wood of these plants and that "our finest trees have gone to the dogs!" Studying the four petals, he noticed they appeared in the shape of the cross and that the tip of each bore a reddish-brown mark like the rust stain that would be left by a nail. The tree and its flower would be a reminder to the world of the crucifixion of Jesus
Flowering dogwoods grow in about 45 varieties. Most have deciduous leaves. A few varieties such as Cherokee Chief have dark pink bracts, what most people refer to as the flowers. The Plena has seven or eight bracts instead of the usual four, and the First Lady has yellow variegated leaves. The Pendula has branches that weep and the Nana is a dwarf variety reaching only 6 feet high.
Flowering dogwood prefer well-drained soil in shady locations. In nature, dogwoods grow under the canopy of taller trees and along forest edges. They grow throughout the United States from Massachusetts to Michigan and south from Kansas and Texas, spanning the lower southeast section of the country. While dogwoods can tolerate many growing conditions, they do not tolerate arid locations.
The best time to transplant dogwood trees is in the spring. Transplant trees with their root ball intact. The hole should be at least threes times the width of the root ball, though slightly less deep than the root ball is tall. The top of the root ball should protrude slightly after positioning it in the hole. Fill the hole with the original soil or add some compost. Cover with a good mulch. Unless the soil is in poor condition, fertilizing should not be necessary. Dogwoods should not be planted too close to buildings because their reflective surfaces can reflect heat toward the tree.
Dogwoods do not like to be handled roughly so use caution during the planting process. Knicks from lawnmowers can make the tree susceptible to illness or pests. Watering is important during times of dryness. Pruning is not generally required unless limbs become damaged.