The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) created the TreesAreGood.com Web site to provide the general public with sound information on tree care. You'll find detailed, step-by-step instructions on planting, mulching, pruning, and more. Plus, the site offers information on how and when to consult with an arborist, and a zip code search of certified arborists in your area.
The leaves of flowering dogwood begin to turn red relatively earlier in the fall. Scientists believe this early coloring helps attract migrating birds that feed upon the tree's berries. The birds benefit from the nutrient-rich fruits, the trees benefit because the birds distribute the seeds in their droppings. Scientists call this early coloring "foliar fruit flagging." Virginia creeper and sassafras are other "flaggers."
Native Americans used dogwood bark as a remedy for malaria; southerners followed suit during the Civil War when quinine became scarce.
Some sources state that the name dogwood refers to the use of the tree's bark in treating mange in dogs. Other sources say that the name is more likely a corruption of the word "daggerwood" and refers to the use of the tree's durable wood in making daggers. The wood also was used for making shuttles for textile factories, because it is hard and becomes smooth with wear. Dogwood is reputed to be one of a few select woods that make effective stakes to kill vampires.
A Native American story describes the origin of the dogwood thus: A greedy chief required his four daughters' suitors to bring him gifts. The gods, thinking this mean-spirited, turned him into a small tree that will never grow tall. His four daughters are still with him in the form of 4 white bracts surrounding the center flower clusters.
A Christian story states that dogwoods used to be full-sized trees. However, the wood of the dogwood was used as timber for the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Taking pity on the tree, which was greatly distressed to be put to such a cruel use, Jesus stated that henceforth the tree would remain small with twisted branches and therefore unsuited to such use in the future. The blossoms, in the form of a cross, would bear rust-colored indentations at the tips of each petal, symbolizing the nails on the cross.