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The History of the Dogwood Tree

dogwood tree

Where Do Dogwood Trees Come From?

The Dogwood Tree was first mentioned in the mid-1500s in Europe, where the Dogwood was known as the “Dagwood.” Over the years, through language differences and dialects, the name Dogwood replaced Dagwood.

The Dogwood trees were first cultivated around the mid-1700s, with many varieties being native to countries around the world. Thomas Jefferson was very fond of the Dogwood, and he planted many near his home, Monticello, in Virginia in the late 1700s. His fondness led to further popularity of the tree in the Southeast. 

In the 19th Century, Native Americans were known to use the tree for many different purposes, including ceremonies and medicines. They also knew that when the Dogwoods began to bloom that it was time to begin planting their crops.

The Symbol of the Dogwood Tree

In Georgia, the Dogwood is a well-known deciduous tree that blooms in early to mid-Spring. It symbolizes “birth” or “rebirth” in both a spiritual and physical sense. When the Dogwood trees begin to bloom, it is a symbol of Spring. This tree is loved so much here in the United States that 3 states have adopted it.

  • Virginia – The Dogwood Tree became the state flower in 1918 and the state tree in 1956.
  • North Carolina – The Dogwood Tree became the state flower in 1941.
  • Missouri – The Dogwood became the state tree in 1955.

Religious Reference and the Crucifixion

Despite the origination of the following story, there are many references to the Dogwood in a biblical sense. It has been told that when Jesus was on Earth, the Dogwood Tree was an extremely large and strong tree – even bigger than the oak. It was said that the timbers were chosen for their strength to be used for the Crucifix. When Jesus died on the cross, He made a promise that the Dogwood would never grow to be large enough to be used for another crucifixion.

Around Easter each year, the Dogwood blooms. The blooms consist of 4 unique petals, which look to be imprinted by nails, and the blooms have a slight red tint on the edges of the petals that closely resemble blood stains. The story also says that the blossom’s center represents the thorny crown.

The Different Varieties of Dogwood Trees

Cornus is the genus name for the group of 50 to 60 species of trees and shrubs within the Dogwood family (Cornaceae). The most popular varieties of Dogwoods here in the South are the Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus Florida), which consist of 10 to 20 varieties, including the Cherokee Brave, Cherokee Princess, and Kousa. All three are indigenous to the Southeast zones and grow well here. Kousa is probably the most common, because it is used as a staple in landscapes for its creamy white blooms.

Adding a Dogwood Tree to your landscape will make a fantastic addition. If you have questions regarding when to plant or what variety would best suite your landscape, give us a call.

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