American Dogwood

Photo: Wiki Commons)

Fast Facts

  • Proclaimed Virginia’s state flower in 1918
  • Botanical name: Cornus florida
  • Common names: Boxwood
  • American Dogwood trivia: Dogs afflicted with mange were treated using a wash created by boiling the dogwood’s bark, hence the tree’s name
  • Virginia Flower Delivery

Few states can claim their state flower was a favorite of one of American’s founding fathers; Virginia can. Thomas Jefferson grew the American dogwood on the grounds of his Virginia estate Monticello in the 1770s.

It was this connection to Virginia’s history that state lawmakers no doubt had in mind when they selected the American dogwood as the Virginia state flower in 1918. Legislators hoped the choice would “stimulate an interest in the history and traditions of the Commonwealth.”

Despite the title bestowed upon it, Virginia’s state flower is actually a tree. In fact, Virginia is the only state to have the same state flower and state tree. At its full growth, the dogwood can reach 30-40 feet high. Its trunk is covered by a block-like bark that helps to distinguish the dogwood from other trees when it is not in bloom.

White Dogwood tree forest by Forest WanderPhoto by Forest Wander

When the dogwood blooms in springtime, it is hard to miss. Its delightful showy flowers emerge in white, pink or red. These are actually not flowers, but bracts that attract pollinators toward the tree’s true flowers. The dogwood’s true blooms are small, yellow flowers that grow in a cluster at the center of the bracts. When pollinated, the fertilized ovaries at the center of the flowers produce oval green fruit.

While it delights in springtime, Virginia’s state flower (and tree) is splendid year round, which is why the tree is lines streets and graces yards across the state, from Arlington to Norfolk. Flowers from the dogwood disappear in summer leaving an attractive dark green behind. In fall, the dogwood’s leaves offer a dazzling display of color in red, orange and scarlet, and its berries are a colorful red. Even in winter, the dogwood’s buds give the tree an elegant silhouette.

While its attractive nature makes the dogwood a top choice for Virginia’s gardeners, Virginians honor the tree in other ways too, the dogwood name appears throughout the state, from Dogwood Harbor in Chesapeake to Dogwood Street in Virginia Beach. No doubt Thomas Jefferson would approve!


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