FLOWERING DOGWOOD





(Cornus florida) Dogwood family



Flowers - (Apparently) large, white or pinkish, the four

conspicuous parts simulating petals, notched at the top, being

really bracts of an involucre below the true flowers, clustered,

in the center, which are very small, greenish yellow, 4-parted,

perfect. Stem: A large shrub or small tree, wood hard, bark

rough. Leaves: Opposite, oval, entire-edged, petioled, paler

underneath. Fruit: Clusters of egg-shaped scarlet berries, tipped

with the persistent calyx.

Preferred Habitat - Woodlands rocky thickets, wooded roadsides.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - Maine to Florida, west to Ontario and Texas.



Has Nature's garden a more decorative ornament than the flowering

dogwood, whose spreading flattened branches whiten the woodland

borders in May as if an untimely snowstorm had come down upon

them, and in autumn paint the landscape with glorious crimson,

scarlet, and gold, dulled by comparison only with the clusters of

vivid red berries among the foliage? Little wonder that

nurserymen sell enormous numbers of these small trees to be

planted on lawns. The horrors of pompous monuments, urns, busts,

shafts, angels, lambs, and long-drawn-out eulogies in stone in

many a cemetery are mercifully concealed in part by these boughs,

laden with blossoms of heavenly purity.



"Let dead names be eternized in dead stone,

But living names by living shafts be known.

Plant thou a tree whose leaves shall sing

Thy deeds and thee each fresh, recurrent spring."



Fit symbol of immortality! Even before the dogwood's leaves fall

in autumn, the round buds for next year's bloom appear on the

twigs, to remain in consoling evidence all winter with the

scarlet fruit. When the buds begin to swell in spring, the four

reddish-purple, scale-like bracts expand, revealing a dozen or

more tiny green flowers clustered within for the large, white,

petal-like parts, with notched, tinted, and puckered lips, into

which these reddish bracts speedily develop, and which some of us

have mistaken for a corolla, are not petals at all - not the true

flowers - merely appendages around the real ones, placed there,

like showy advertisements, to attract customers. Nectar, secreted

in a disk on each minute ovary, is eagerly sought by little

Andrena and other bees, besides flies and butterflies. Insects

crawling about these clusters, whose florets are all of one kind,

get their heads and undersides dusted with pollen, which they

transfer as they suck. Hungry winter birds, which bolt the red

fruit only when they can get no choicer fare, distribute the

smooth, indigestible stones far and wide.



When the Massachusetts farmers think they hear the first brown

thrasher in April advising them to plant their Indian corn,

reassuringly calling, "Drop it, drop it - cover it up, cover it

up - pull it up, pull it up, pull it up" (Thoreau), they look to

the dogwood flowers to confirm the thrasher's advice before

taking it.



The LOW or DWARF CORNEL, or BUNCHBERRY (C. canadensus) whose

scaly stem does its best to attain a height of nine inches, bears

a whorl of from four to six oval, pointed, smooth leaves at the

summit. From the midst of this whorl comes a cluster of minute

greenish florets, encircled by four to six large, showy, white

petal-like bracts, quite like a small edition of the flowering

dogwood blossom. Tight clusters of round berries, that are lifted

upward on a gradually lengthened peduncle after the flowers fade

(May-July), brighten with vivid touches of scarlet shadowy, mossy

places in cool, rich woods, where the dwarf cornels, with the

partridge vine, twin flower, gold thread, and fern, form the most

charming of carpets.



Other common dogwoods there are - shrubs from three to ten feet

in height - which bear flat clusters of small white flowers

without the showy petal-like bracts, imitating a corolla, as in

the two preceding species, but each little four-parted blossom

attracting its miscellaneous crowd of benefactors by association

with dozens of its counterparts in a showy cyme. Because these

flowers expand farther than the minute florets of the dwarf

cornel or the flowering dogwood, and the sweets are therefore

more accessible, all the insects which fertilize them come to the

shrub dogwoods too, and in addition very many beetles, to which

their odor seems especially attractive. ("Odore carabico o

scarabeo" - Delpino.) The ROUND-LEAVED CORNEL or DOGWOOD [now

ROUNDLEAF DOGWOOD] (C. circinata), found on shady hillsides, in

open woodlands, and roadside thickets - especially in rocky

districts - from Nova Scotia to Virginia, and westward to Iowa,

may be known by its greenish, warty twigs; its broadly ovate, or

round petioled, opposite leaves, short-tapering to a point, and

downy beneath; and, in May and June, by its small, flat, white

flower-clusters about two inches across, that are followed by

light-blue (not edible) berries.



Even more abundant is the SILKY CORNEL, KINNIKINNICK, or SWAMP

DOGWOOD [now SILKY DOGWOOD] (C. amonum; C. sericca of Gray) found

in low, wet ground, and beside streams, from Nebraska to the

Atlantic Ocean, south to Florida and north to New Brunswick. Its

dull-reddish twigs, oval or oblong leaves, rounded at the base

but tapering to a point at the apex, and usually silky-downy with

fine, brownish hairs underneath (to prevent the pores from

clogging with vapors arising from its damp habitat); its rather

compact, flat clusters of white flowers from May to July, and its

bluish berries are its distinguishing features. The Indians loved

to smoke its bark for its alleged tonic effect.



The RED-OSIER CORNEL or DOGWOOD (C. stolonifera), which has

spread, with the help of running shoots, through the soft soil of

its moist retreats, over the British Possessions north of us and

throughout the United States from ocean to ocean, except at the

extreme south, may be known by its bright purplish-red twigs; its

opposite, slender, petioled leaves, rather abruptly pointed at

the apex, roughish on both sides, but white or nearly so beneath;

its small, flat-topped white flower-clusters in June or July; and

finally, by its white or lead-colored fruit.



In good, rich, moist soil another white-fruited species, the

PANICLED CORNEL or DOGWOOD (C. candidissima; C. paniculata of

Gray) rears its much-branched, smooth, gray stems. In May or June

the shrub is beautiful with numerous convex, loose clusters of

white flowers at the ends of the twigs. So far do the stamens

diverge from the pistil that self-pollination is not likely; but

an especially large number of the less specialized insects,

seeking the freely exposed nectar, do all the necessary work as

they crawl about and fly from shrub to shrub. This species bears

comparatively long and narrow leaves, pale underneath. Its range

is from Maine to the Carolinas and westward to Nebraska.





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