The flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) tree is, perhaps, Virginia's most beloved bloom of spring. It is both the state flower and the state tree.
First, the flower:
Dogwoods produce drifts of large white or pink flowers in early spring, blooming at about the same time as redbuds and daffodils, generally in April.
The dogwood's white or pink "petals", however, are not petals at all; they're bracts. Bracts are modified or specialized leaves. The actual flowers of the dogwood are the small, citrine colored structures, usually 20 or so, in the center of the large white or pink bracts.
After a healthy season of visits from pollinators, the flowers disappear and the tree grows its bright red fruit, called drupes, they resemble a small, hanging, oval cherry. Dogwood drupes are an important source of food for many species of native birds.
Now, the tree:
The dogwood is a native tree, growing up to 33 feet tall, it occupies the "understory" of the forest, where shrubs and trees that are adapted to the shade provided by the taller trees' canopies flourish.
Though, by nature of its smaller stature, the dogwood does not provide suitable wood for home building, throughout Virginia's history, it has been incredibly useful and has supplied the commonwealth's residents with:
- scarlet dyes, and
- a quinine substitute.
The dogwood's wood is hard and dense, and has been used to make products including:
- wooden rake teeth,
- tool handles, and
- butcher’s blocks