The brilliant blooms of the flowering dogwood, the state flower of North Carolina, are a sure sign of spring in most of the eastern U.S. The true flowers of the dogwood are the small yellow-green clusters in the center of four large white petal-like bracts. These bracts are white, sometimes tinged with pink, in native trees but can be predominantly pink in cultivated varieties. The flowers emerge before the leaves.
Aside from its beauty, the dogwood tree has many practical uses. A root bark tea or tincture was widely used, particularly in Civil War times, to treat malaria. The Cherokee made tea from the flowers and bark for various medicines and root bark poultices to treat ulcers, as well as a red dye from the roots. The ends of dogwood twigs, when chewed, can serve as a toothbrush. Though the berries are very bitter and inedible to humans, songbirds, grouse, turkey, chipmunks, foxes, and squirrels are among the many animals that eat them. Deer browse the leaves and twigs. The dense wood is very shock resistant and is used in shuttles for in weaving, mallet heads, tool handles, and small pulleys.
The dogwood tree appears frequently in Christian symbolism. By tradition, the crucifixion cross was made from dogwood, and the bracts are described as being in the shape of the cross, with notches in the ends to represent nail holes. The true flower in the middle is said to resemble the crown of thorns.
Sponsor: St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Est. 1883
Sponsor: First Baptist Church Brevard, Est. 1869