With Easter right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to review the legend of the dogwood tree.
Thought it may not be as obvious as the Easter bunny or Easter egg hunts, the dogwood tree is one of the symbols of Easter.
Even though Easter is in the beginning of spring, when many flowers are coming into bloom, there are only two floral symbols of Easter (and the dogwood is one of them!). The Easter lily is the other flower of Easter.
Keep reading to learn the legend of the dogwood tree, as well as the dogwood flower meaning, and dogwood tree facts!
What the legend of the dogwood tree?
The legend of the dogwood tree is a Christian story of unknown origin. It says that the cross of Jesus’s crucifixion was made of dogwood.
You might be wondering, how could this short tree with thin, crooked branches be used to make a cross large enough to crucify Jesus?
The legend of the dogwood tree says that during Jesus’s life, the tree looked very different than how it appears now.
It was a strong, solid tree, which could grow larger than an oak tree or cedar tree. Dogwood was highly used in building, as the wood was sturdy and easy to work with.
As it was a sturdy building material, it became the chosen material to make the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
Jesus bestowed a curse unto the tree of his crucifixion. He cursed the tree to never again grow tall enough to be used in another crucifixion as a dogwood cross.
The dogwood tree which once stood tall, became a short tree with thin and crooked branches.
However, in addition to cursing the dogwood tree, Jesus also blessed the dogwood tree to grow beautiful flowers that would bloom in time for Easter.
That way, anyone looking at a dogwood tree would remember the story of Jesus’s crucifixion.
Dogwood flower meaning
Let’s talk about dogwood flowers. The white part of the dogwood flower that appears to be flower petals are actually leaves (called bracts).
Another popular example of a plant whose leaves are often mistaken for petals, is the poinsettia (the red parts of the plant are bracts too, not petals!).
On dogwood trees, four bracts surround a tight cluster of tiny yellow flowers in the center.
The bracts form in a cross shape, with two long bracts, and two short bracts. This formation holds religious symbolism, as it forms what look like tiny floral crosses all over the dogwood tree.
The bracts are indented on the edge, which gives the appearance that a nail has passed through them.
Some varieties of dogwood flowers even have red marks around the bracts’ indents, which represent the blood of Jesus Christ.
The tight grouping of flowers in the center of the dogwood flower symbolize the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus’s head during the crucifixion.
For another Easter symbol with religious meaning, make sure to check out the history of hot cross buns. Every component of this traditional Easter bread has religious meaning, from the dough to the spices used! Hot cross buns are so special they even have their own national day.
Is the legend of the dogwood true?
As faith is a subjective matter, it is hard to say if any faith based belief is true or false. However, there is some evidence to indicate this the legend of the dogwood tree is likely just that, a legend.
Flowering dogwood trees are only native to Eastern North America and Northern Mexico, so there would not have been any dogwood trees in Israel during Jesus’ crucifixion.
There is also no mention of dogwood trees in the bible. It is most likely that the origin of the legend of the dogwood comes from at 20th century poem written by an unknown author.
Whether you choose to believe the legend of the dogwood tree is up to you!
If you enjoyed learning this story, check out our mythology posts. The story of Cupid and Psyche and the story of Daphne and Apollo are two fascinating Greek myths.
If you’re looking for some concrete facts about dogwood trees, keep reading, we have some listed below for you.
Facts about dogwood trees
Did the legend of the dogwood tree inspire you to learn about this plant? Check out these dogwood tree facts below. Some may surprise you!
- The flowering dogwood is the state tree of Virginia and Missouri.
- It is also the state flower of North Carolina.
- Dogwood was used to treat dogs with mange, which could be a possible origin of the plant’s name.
- The white “petals” of dogwood trees are actually not petals at all! They’re leaves called bracts. The actual flowers are the small yellow clusters in the center of the bracts.
- Dogwoods flowers come in various colors from white to deep pink. They can even be found in a pale yellow color. However dogwood flowers don’t have as wide of a range of color as other flowers (e.g. roses and orchids).
Did you know that some flowers and trees have national days dedicated to them? Dogwoods, unfortunately, do not have their own national day.
If you want to learn about flowers and houseplants with their own national days, make sure to check out our posts on National Carnation Day and National Poinsettia Day. There’s even a two national days dedicated to roses: National Red Rose Day and Rose Day.
Dogwood tree facts
Did you enjoy learning those facts about dogwood trees? Here are some more dogwood tree facts for you to enjoy!
- Dogwood trees produce red fruit in the fall. This red fruit looks similar to cranberries, but is classified as a drupe. Drupes are fruits with pits in the center; other examples include peaches, plums, cherries, olives, pecans and almonds.
- The average lifespan of a dogwood tree is 80 years.
- There are two ways branches can grow on trees: opposite branching (when branches grow directly opposite each other) and alternate branching (when the branches alternate). Dogwood trees have opposite branching which is more rare than alternate branching.
- The dogwood tree is deciduous, so it drops its leaves during the winter.
- Atlanta holds a yearly dogwood festival. The first year of the Atlanta Dogwood Festival was 1936.
If you enjoyed learning these facts about dogwood trees, and the legend of the dogwood tree, and want to add one to your yard, look into purchasing a dogwood tree of your own! (affiliate link)
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If you enjoyed learning these facts about dogwood trees, be sure to also check out these other informational posts!
- Symbols of St. Patrick’s Day – Check out our guide to learn why we wear the color green, and see images of leprechauns and rainbows on St. Patrick’s Day.
- Valentine’s Day symbols – This guide goes over all of the symbols of this holiday, from Cupid to the colors of Valentine’s Day.
- Symbols of Thanksgiving – Learn about the cornucopia and other symbols of Thanksgiving.
- Tea facts – Learn interesting facts about tea to celebrate National Tea Day!
- Super Bowl facts – If you’re a football fan, make sure to check out this post with facts about the Super Bowl!
- Korean American Day – Learn the history of the first Korean immigrants to the United States, and special ways to celebrate this national day.
Still want more facts and historical trivia? Check out our fun facts section to learn more about some of your favorite things!
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About the author
Since graduating from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Jess has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She is a freelance writer, specializing in content related to fashion, food and drink and film industry topics. Find out more about Jess here.
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