Spring is in full swing! You know that saying, April showers bring May flowers! Well amidst our April showers there are early spring bloomers. Like Redbuds, the Jane Magnolia, and Cherry Blossom trees are looking and smelling great for example. There is one tree variety with large fragrant blooms that’s stealing the show. Dogwood Trees have started opening their blossoms to become spring super stars!
They’re more than just large fragrant blooms, they have a rich history and different varieties are natively found all over the world. Dogwood flowers are even the state flower of, North Carolina and Virginia. Also, Flowering Dogwoods are the state tree for Missouri. Let’s get into all the facts about Dogwood Trees with the history and care!
While Dogwoods have been around for generations, the English language developed the phrase, “Dogtree” for them in 1548. It derived from the word “Dagwood” because slender stems were used for making narrow items, like dags or daggers, arrows, and skewers. Basically small items that needed hard wood. Later in 1614 the name changed to Dogwood.
Some suggest that the tree was called the Dogwood because when the wind blows and the branches knock together it sounds like a dog barking. Also, to treat skin conditions like mange in dogs, people boiled the wood in water, then washed their dogs in the Dogwood water.
While in Europe the wood of Dogwoods was being used for items like arrows and the first types of tennis rackets, Native Americans were using Dogwoods for a variety of things as well. Many Indians used Dogwoods for making toothbrushes, as well as daggers and arrows like Europeans. Dogwoods were seen as lucky, and masculine. Males often ate Dogwood berries in religious ceremonies. The bark and roots were used for medicines and dyes. However, the sap is toxic and was often used as poison among some tribes!
Also, Native Americans used inner Dogwood bark in a special tobacco mixture, used in sacred pipes. When Dogwoods busted with blooms they signaled that it was time for Native American’s to plant corn. This is our favorite Dogwood Tree use! It meant that winter ended, and the growing season had begun!
Dogwoods as Ornamental Trees
The cultivation of Dogwoods to be used as beautiful ornamental trees started around the 1730s. People were taking notice of Dogwood’s compact size, large blooms in pink, red, and white, and weaving, curvy branches.
Thomas Jefferson actually encouraged the growth of Dogwood Trees at his home in Monticello, Virginia. This led to this tree taking off in popularity. Many Southern states encourage using Dogwoods as beautiful landscaping trees.
The excitement of these bright blooms every spring has led to many Dogwood festivals located across many states. Each with their own unique traditions. Some feature BBQs, concerts, golf tournaments and more.
The festival in Atlanta features a huge 5k! In the Dogwood Trails celebration in Texas you can have brunch at the Texas State Railroad. In Kentucky there’s a lighted Dogwood trail that can be enjoyed in the evening by foot, car, or even trolley. If you get a Spring break visiting one of these celebrations would be a great way to spend it. Nothing is better than warm weather and spring celebrations!
When looking for a place to plant your Dogwood tree remember that Dogwoods enjoy partial shade. They can tolerate full sun, but prefer receiving dappled shade during the day. They grow in the wild in shaded hardwood forests, so it’s very natural for them to thrive without full sun.
Dogwood trees will adapt to your natural soil, even if it’s sandy or heavy in clay. However, they do benefit from soil that’s slightly acidic. You can amend your soil by adding a little organic matter to it. Keep your soil moist, but not oversaturated. Dogwoods are pretty drought tolerant, but will need some water during times of prolonged heat and droughts.
Every few days feel the soil around your trees, if it’s close to drying out then give your tree a slow deep watering. Pay attention to the weather in your area to have an idea of how much rain fall your plants are receiving.
Spreading a 3 inch layer of mulch around the base of your trees will help your soil retain moisture. Mulch will also prevent weeds and grass from growing under your trees, which can steal nutrients from them.
Fertilizer usually isn’t necessary for Dogwood trees, unless you know that your yard is lacking in nutrients. You can find how much nutrients your lawn has with a basic soil testing kit found in local gardening stores. If you find that your soil isn’t acidic you can give it some food that’s for Holly trees or an acid loving shrub. Dogwoods also can benefit from fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen. If you need to fertilize your trees, fertilize them in the early spring and again in the early fall.
Prune your Dogwoods in the early spring, before your tree breaks dormancy. Pruning Dogwoods can help shape them and improve their health. With a sharp and sterile pair of loppers or hand pruners remove any dead or damaged branches. Also, remove any branches that are touching or rubbing together. This way they won’t have unclean breaks on their own. Thin the center of your tree to allow more air circulation which can prevent molds, fungi and mildews from growing.
The attractive look of Dogwood Bark and bright showy blooms often cause the fact that these trees produce berries to go unnoticed. The berries grow over the winter and can vary in color and size. They can be white, red, or blue. They can be very small, or the size of raspberries.
Even though some Native Americans used to eat the berries we don’t recommend doing so. They can cause gas and stomach pains. Some believe the berries are toxic. Birds and small wildlife enjoy eating them, and they make an excellent winter food source for small wildlife.
Don’t Go on Without Dogwood Color
Dogwood trees are extremely easy to grow in a variety of different climates. There even might be some growing naturally in wooded areas near your home. Their large bright blooms will let you know that spring has officially sprung! They have multiple deep green leaves in the summer. In the fall many different types of Dogwood trees provide beautiful fall foliage before their leaves drop. Their textured grey trunks stand out against the snow in the winter, not to mention you might get a glimpse of red berries before the birds eat them all. These trees have been a classic American favorite for years. The time to plant them is now! Don’t hesitate to honor their rich history and provide your yard with year around color.