Dogwood trees make great additions to any garden, especially those with small spaces. The trees also grow in the wild, although transplanting wild dogwoods into the garden or landscape remains a problem since native trees tend to be more susceptible to disease and insects. If space allows, consider planting a mass of dogwood trees for show-stopping beauty.
Two states feature the dogwood as their state tree including Virginia and Missouri. A third state, North Carolina, considers the dogwood flower their state flower. The blossoms of the dogwood also act as the official flower of the Canadian province of British Columbia. And the Girl Scouts use the dogwood on one of their troop crests.
A Christian legend suggests that the cross used to crucify Jesus was made of dogwood. Supposedly, the dogwood was the largest tree in Jerusalem, but after Jesus was crucified, he changed the plant so its branches were twisted and unusable for construction of crosses. The legend also says Jesus changed the flowers to four bracts that appear cross-shaped to represent the four corners of the cross.
Flowers and Fruits
The flowers of the dogwood consist of four white, pink or red bracts that look like petals surrounding clusters of tiny yellow flowers. The blooms last several weeks. After the flowers fade away, clusters of bright red oval-shaped fruits appear. The fruits stay on the trees through the winter, offering a valuable food resource for birds and small mammals.
While dogwoods grow in the wild, particularly in the eastern regions of the United States, a variety of dogwood cultivars give gardeners a choice of spring flower colors. Apple Blossom offers pink flowers while Cherokee Chief features red flowers with new reddish leaves. White Cloud sports creamy-white flowers, while Xanthocarpa bears yellow fruit when mature.
Trunks and Bark
The trunks of dogwood trees feature heavy gray bark that looks smooth and unmarked on new trees. But as the trees age, the bark breaks into small rectangles, making the tree even more visually interesting.
As a fungus disease, dogwood blight attacks dogwood trees. The disease infects understory trees in cool, humid climates. Dogwoods growing in the open with good air circulation and plenty of sunlight seem unaffected. Trees with the disease show dark tan marks on their leaves; once the infection occurs in the tree, it dies within a few years.
Dogwood trees thrive in hardiness zones 5 to 8, adapting to almost any type of soil as long as it's well-drained. Preferring partial shade to full sun, the tree grows up to 30 feet in height with a 20-to-30-foot spread. Dogwoods tend to be drought-resistant, requiring little maintenance once the tree becomes well established.