The American botanist William Bartram (1739 to 1823) documented the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), which he discovered near Mobile, Alabama, in 1773. Since then, there have been interesting facts uncovered about this multifaceted tree. For instance, the very hard and strong wood of this tree can be used to manufacture roller-skate wheels and knitting needles, among other specialty items that require durability.
What appears to be a white dogwood flower is more properly called an inflorescence. In botanical terms, this means a flower cluster. This term describes the four white bracts that surround as many as 20 yellow dogwood flowers packed tightly in the center.
The bracts of the dogwood are snowy white with touches of red. Some Christians compare the four-point shape of the bracts to the cross of Jesus Christ. The crown of thorns is in the center. The tinges of red on the outer edges of the flower cluster symbolize the blood from the hands and feet of Jesus Christ while on the cross.
Some reports say that the fruit of the flowering dogwood is poisonous and not fit for human consumption. But according to the United States National Arboretum, the fruit is not poisonous. However, it does not have a pleasant taste.
The dogwood family name--Cornaceae--means "horn" in Latin and could be a reference to the hardness of the tree wood. Daggers were made of dogwood in Europe, and the Old English forms of the word "daggers" (dag or dague) suggest the possible origin of the dogwood tree's name. Some theorize that the dogwood name derived from a treatment for mange made from Cornus sanguinea.
A wide array of products, from bowls and pipes to golf clubs and tool handles, originated from flowering dogwood. The tree's powdered bark produced toothpaste, while a scarlet dye resulted from root bark. Dogwood was used in medicines for cold and colic as well as digestion and fever.
Beautiful images of flowering dogwood decorate a wide range of giftware, from note cards, postcards and binders, to art prints, stamps, key chains and refrigerator magnets, to T-shirts, trucker hats and even shoes.