Facts About Flowering Dogwood Trees


Dogwood is a rather unflattering name for such a pretty flowering tree. The name may originate from a European treatment for mange that employed the bark of a species of dogwood. More likely, though, the name stems from colonial America, when settlers dubbed the scant fruit of the tree "dog berries." Other information about the flowering dogwood tree is more readily verifiable.


The American botanist William Bartram (1739 to 1823) is credited with the original discovery of a grove of flowering dogwood trees near Mobile, Alabama in 1773. Bartram described his discovery in detail in his 1791 publication, "Travels."


Cornus florida is the botanical name of the flowering dogwood. This deciduous ornamental can grow to between 15 and 40 feet tall, depending on environmental conditions. "As wide as it is tall" definitely applies to the dogwood, whose layered branches extend from a relatively short trunk. Its thick crown provides pleasant shade in the warmer months.

Environmental Resources

Ideally, the dogwood prefers partial shade, well-drained soil, humidity and relatively sheltered spots. It is a tree for all seasons, with springtime blooms of white, pink or red, and bright green summer foliage that turns to scarlet in the fall when clusters of red fruit enhance the tree through December. The fruit, flowers, seeds, twigs, bark and leaves of the flowering dogwood all serve useful purposes in feeding wildlife.


Among the cultivars of the flowering dogwood are Cherokee Chief, a red flowering tree; Cherokee Daybreak, with white blooms; and Cherokee Princess, with large, white flowers.


The flowering dogwood is highly susceptible to a fungal disease called dogwood blight. Horticulturists discovered the existence of this condition in the 1970's. Signs of dogwood blight appear on the leaves in the form of small spots with purple borders. The fungus kills the leaves first. The tree dies in a matter of two or three years thereafter.


Dogwood wood is tough and resilient. It is used in the manufacture of golf clubs as well as commercial loom shuttles and spindles. The bark of dogwood contains properties used medicinally in colonial America to soothe fever.

State Symbols

In 1941, the North Carolina General Assembly designated the dogwood as the state flower. The dogwood is native to and prevalent in North Carolina. It is also indigenous to most of the eastern United States. The flowering dogwood tree became the state tree of Missouri in 1955. It is also the state flower (1918) and state tree (1956) of Virginia.

Keywords: flowering dogwood trees, Cornus florida, William Bartram

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for over 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in Stanislaus Magazine, Orientations, The Asia Magazine, and The Peninsula Group Magazine, among others. She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.