1 a tree of shrub of the genus Cornus often having showy bracts resembling flowers [syn: dogwood tree, cornel]
2 hard tough wood of any dogwood of the genus Cornus; resemble boxwood
- 1973, Lewis J. Clark, Wild Flowers of British Columbia, Gray's
Publishing, Sidney, B.C., Canada, page 341.
- "Dogwood is modernized from dagwood, for the hard wood was in early days used to make dags, meaning--in different parts of the coast--either skewers or wedges."
The Dogwoods comprise a group of 30-50 species of mostly deciduous woody plants growing as shrubs and trees, some species are herbaceous perennial plants and a few of the woody species are evergreen. They are in the family Cornaceae, divided into one to nine genera or subgenera (depending on botanical interpretation). Four subgenera are enumerated here.
- Flower clusters semi-showy, usually white or yellow, in cymes
with large showy bracts, fruit red, blue or white:
- (Sub)genus Cornus. Cornels; four species of shrubs or small trees; flower clusters with a deciduous involucre.
- (Sub)genus Swida. Dogwoods; about 20-30 species of shrubs;
flower clusters without an involucre.
- Cornus alba (Swida alba; Siberian Dogwood). Siberia and northern China.
- Cornus alternifolia (Swida alternifolia; Pagoda Dogwood or Alternate-leaf Dogwood). Eastern North America north to extreme southeast Canada.
- Cornus amomum (Swida amomum; Silky Dogwood). Eastern U.S. east of the Great Plains except for deep south, and extreme southeast Canada.
- Cornus asperifolia (Swida asperifolia; Rough-leaf Dogwood).
- Cornus austrosinensis (Swida austrosinensis; South China Dogwood). East Asia.
- Cornus bretschneideri (Swida bretschneideri; Bretschneider's Dogwood). Northern China.
- Cornus controversa (Swida controversa; Table Dogwood). East Asia.
- Cornus coreana (Swida coreana; Korean Dogwood). Northeast Asia.
- Cornus drummondii (Swida drummondii; Roughleaf Dogwood). U.S. between the Appalachian belt and the Great Plains, and southern Ontario.
- Cornus foemina (Swida foemina; Stiff Dogwood) Southeastern, Southern, and Eastern United States.
- Cornus glabrata (Swida glabrata; Brown Dogwood or Smooth Dogwood). Western North America.
- Cornus hemsleyi (Swida hemsleyi; Hemsley's Dogwood). Southwest China.
- Cornus koehneana (Swida koehneana; Koehne's Dogwood). Southwest China.
- Cornus macrophylla (Swida macrophylla; Large-leafed Dogwood). East Asia.
- Cornus obliqua (Swida obliqua; Pale Dogwood). Eastern North America.
- Cornus paucinervis (Swida paucinervis). China.
- Cornus racemosa (Swida racemosa; Northern Swamp Dogwood or Gray Dogwood). Extreme southeast Canada and northeast U.S.
- Cornus rugosa (Swida rugosa; Round-leaf Dogwood). Southeast Canada and extreme northeast U.S.
- Cornus sanguinea (Swida sanguinea; Common Dogwood). Europe.
- Cornus sericea (C. stolonifera; Swida stolonifera; Red Osier Dogwood). Northern North America.
- Cornus stricta (Swida stricta; Southern Swamp Dogwood). Southeast U.S.
- Cornus walteri (Swida walteri; Walter's Dogwood). Central China.
- Cornus wilsoniana (Swida wilsoniana; Wilson's Dogwood). Central China.
- (Sub)genus Swida. Dogwoods; about 20-30 species of shrubs; flower clusters without an involucre.
- Flower clusters inconspicuous, usually greenish, surrounded by
large, showy petal-like bracts; fruit usually red:
- (Sub)genus Chamaepericlymenum. Bunchberries or Dwarf cornels;
two species of creeping subshrubs growing from woody
- Cornus canadensis (Chamaepericlymenum canadense; Canadian Dwarf Cornel or Bunchberry) Northern North America.
- Cornus suecica (Chamaepericlymenum suecicum; Eurasian Dwarf Cornel or Bunchberry). Northern Eurasia, locally in extreme northeast and northwest North America.
- Cornus × unalaschkensis (hybrid C. canadensis × C. suecica). Aleutian Islands, Greenland, Labrador.
- (Sub)genus Chamaepericlymenum. Bunchberries or Dwarf cornels; two species of creeping subshrubs growing from woody stolons.
- (Sub)genus Benthamidia (syn. subgenus Dendrobenthamia, subgenus
Cynoxylon). Flowering dogwoods; five species of trees, divisible
into two subgroups (Benthamidia, with individual drupes, and
Dendrobenthamia, with the drupes coalaced into a compound fruit).
- Cornus capitata (Benthamidia capitata, Dendrobenthamia capitata; Himalayan Flowering Dogwood). Himalaya.
- Cornus florida (Benthamidia florida; Flowering Dogwood). U.S. east of the Great Plains, north to southern Ontario.
- Cornus hongkongensis (Benthamidia hongkongensis, Dendrobenthamia hongkongensis; Hongkong Dogwood). Southern China, Laos, Vietnam.
- Cornus kousa (Benthamidia kousa, Dendrobenthamia kousa; Kousa Dogwood). Japan and (as subsp. chinensis) central and northern China.
- Cornus nuttallii (Benthamidia nuttallii; Pacific Dogwood). Western North America from British Columbia to California.
- (Sub)genus Benthamidia (syn. subgenus Dendrobenthamia, subgenus Cynoxylon). Flowering dogwoods; five species of trees, divisible into two subgroups (Benthamidia, with individual drupes, and Dendrobenthamia, with the drupes coalaced into a compound fruit).
Characteristics of DogwoodMost species have opposite leaves and a few have alternate. The fruit of all species is a drupe with one or two seeds. Flowers have four parts.
Many species in subgenus Swida are stoloniferous shrubs, growing along waterways. Several of these are used in naturalizing landscape plantings, especially the species with bright red or bright yellow stems. Most of the species in subgenus Benthamidia are small trees used as ornamental plants. As flowering trees, they are of rare elegance and beauty, comparable to Carolina silverbell, Canadian serviceberry, and the Eastern Redbud for their ornamental qualities.
The fruit of several species in the subgenera Cornus and Benthamidia is edible, though without much flavour. The berries of those in subgenus Swida are mildly toxic to people, though readily eaten by birds. Dogwoods are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Emperor Moth, The Engrailed, Small Angle Shades and the following case-bearers of the genus Coleophora: C. ahenella, C. salicivorella (recorded on Cornus canadensis), C. albiantennaella, C. cornella and C. cornivorella (The latter three feed exclusively on Cornus). They were used by pioneers to brush their teeth. The pioneers would peel off the bark, bite the twig and then scrub their teeth.
Dogwood in government insigniaNumerous varieties of Dogwood are represented in the insignia of U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
The Dogwood (Cornus florida) and its inflorescence are the state tree and the state flower respectively for the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia. It is also the state tree of Missouri and the state flower of North Carolina.
Etymology and other meaningsThe word dogwood comes from dagwood, from the use of the slender stems of very hard wood for making 'dags' (daggers, skewers). The wood was also highly prized for making loom shuttles, arrows, tool handles, and other small items that required a very hard and strong wood.
Larger items were also made of dogwood such as the screw in basket-style wine or fruit presses, also made were the first styles of the tennis racket made out of the bark cut in thin strips.
Another earlier name of the dogwood in English is the whipple-tree. Geoffrey Chaucer uses the word whippletree in the Canterbury Tales (The Knight's Tale, verse 2065) to refer to the dogwood. Another larger item made of dogwood still bears the name of the tree from which it is carved. The whippletree is an element of the traction of a horse-drawn cart, which links the drawpole of the cart to the harnesses of the horses in file.
The name Dog-Tree entered English vocabulary by 1548, and had been further transformed to Dogwood by 1614. Once the name dogwood was affixed to the tree, it soon acquired a secondary name as the Hound's Tree, while the fruits came to be known as dogberries or houndberries (the latter a name also for the berries of Black nightshade & alluding to Hecate's hounds).
It is possible that the common name of Dogwood may have come because “dogs were washed with a brew of its bark, hence Dogwood.” Another name is blood-twig, due to the red colour it turns in autumn.
In botany and in colloquial use, the term dogwood winter may be used to describe a cold snap in spring.
The legend of the dogwoodThere is a Christian legend of unknown origin that proclaims that the cross used to crucify Jesus was constructed of dogwood. As the story goes, during the time of Jesus, the dogwood was larger and stronger than it is today and was the largest tree in the area of Jerusalem. After his crucifixion, Jesus changed the plant to its current form: he shortened it and twisted its branches to assure an end to its use for the construction of crosses. He also transformed its inflorescence into a representation of the crucifixion itself, with the four white bracts cross-shaped, which represent the four corners of the cross, each bearing a rusty indentation as of a nail and the red stamens of the flower, represents Jesus' crown of thorns, and the clustered red fruit represent his blood.
dogwood in Danish: Kornel
dogwood in German: Hartriegel
dogwood in Spanish: Cornus
dogwood in Esperanto: Kornuso
dogwood in French: Cornus (plante)
dogwood in Dutch: Kornoelje
dogwood in Polish: Dereń
dogwood in Portuguese: Cornus
dogwood in Russian: Кизил
dogwood in Slovenian: Dren (grm)
dogwood in Walloon: Coignoûlî
dogwood in Chinese: 山茱萸属
dogwood in Italian: Corniolo