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Capitol Plaza Trees Trees

  • kathie767

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Origin: Native to eastern North America.

Characteristics: Known for its beautiful white or pink spring flowers, which are actually bracts.

Fun Fact: The flowers appear to last much longer because what seems like petals are actually modified leaves.

Uses: The hard, dense wood is used for tools and turning.

The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is celebrated for its stunning spring display, but what many may not realize is that the iconic "flowers" are not true flowers at all. Instead, they are bracts—modified leaves—that surround the tree's much smaller, inconspicuous true flowers. This adaptation is not only a brilliant botanical feature but also a crucial strategy for attracting pollinators.


What are Bracts?

Bracts are specialized plant structures, often mistaken for petals, that can be found beneath or around the actual floral organs. They sometimes serve to protect the flowers during development or may function mainly to attract pollinators with their bright colors and prominent placement. In the case of the flowering dogwood, the bracts are large and showy, typically white or pink, which makes them highly visible from a distance, thereby drawing in pollinators to the tiny, clustered true flowers at the center.


The dogwood's four prominent bracts are shaped somewhat like petals and are often colored differently from the green of typical leaves, ranging from white and pink to even red. This modification helps maximize the visibility of the tree during its flowering period, enhancing its chances of successful pollination.


Dogwood Wood and Its Uses

Beyond its ornamental value, the flowering dogwood tree is also prized for the high quality of its wood. Dogwood timber is extremely hard, dense, and fine-grained, making it one of the most durable domestic hardwoods. Its toughness and ability to withstand abrasion and wear are remarkable, qualities that lend the wood to various specialized uses.


The wood of the dogwood is particularly favored for making tool handles, especially for tools that require toughness and resistance to shock, such as hammers and mallets. It is also used in the production of textile shuttles, golf club heads, and other items where durability and fine grain are desirable.


Woodturning with Dogwood

In woodturning, dogwood's fine grain and smooth finish make it an excellent choice for crafting detailed and delicate items. Woodturners appreciate the wood for its ability to hold sharp, precise details without splitting or cracking, which is ideal for creating intricate designs and patterns. Popular turned items made from dogwood include small decorative objects, jewelry, intricate bowls, and even parts of musical instruments.


Dogwood's combination of beauty and utility captures the essence of what makes this species so valuable. From the stunning spring display created by its modified leaves to the durable, finely grained wood used in various crafts, the flowering dogwood tree offers multiple dimensions of enjoyment and practical use, embodying both the artistic and utilitarian spirit in nature's creations.

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