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Symbolic Meaning of a Dogwood Tree

Flowering dogwood image by Christopher Martin from

The dogwood tree is a common feature in landscaping designs and is prized for its delicate flowers and scent. This particular kind of tree is native to the Middle East. Many legends in Christianity include the dogwood. In fact, the tree has taken on symbolic meaning for many cultures.

The Legend

The legend surrounding the symbolic meaning of a dogwood tree is intrinsically linked to Christianity. It is said that the wood of the dogwood tree is the hardest and that it was chosen to be used in the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Although there are no direct accounts that this is so, it is known that dogwood grew in the areas surrounding Jerusalem during this time period, and it is entirely likely that this wood was used.

Growth of the Dogwood Tree

The legend of the tree continues that because it was used as part of the cross, that God cursed the dogwood forever after. Due to this supposed curse, the growth pattern of the dogwood tree is said to be stunted and twisted. Once again, there is no real historic fact to back this up, and there are no notes that show whether or not that the dogwood tree used to grow taller before the crucifixion. However, the tree does now have a growth pattern that is very twisted and short.

Dogwood Flowers

The legend of the dogwood tree also extends to its flowers. Typically, the blossoms are four petaled with two long petals and two short petals, forming the shape of the sign of the cross. The flowers are typically white or pink with dark edging at the tips meant to signify the nails of the cross. The center of the blossom can be described as a crown of thorns and is also typically of a darker color than the rest of the blossom.

Dogwood Trees in Poetry

There is a poem connected with the symbolic meaning of a dogwood tree, but there is no attribution given as to whom the author may be. It details the use of the tree during the crucifixion as well as the resulting curse and the shape of the blossoms. Whether the poem is simply part of the legend or was put together to further demonstrate the symbolic meaning is not known. What can be taken away from this poem and the legend itself is that the dogwood tree does indeed bloom during the Easter season, its growth pattern is stunted and its blossoms do resemble the cross.

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