Seventeen species of dogwood occur in North
America and six of these grow naturally here in Missouri.
While only 3 of the 17 species obtain tree size, the most
outstanding species of the arboreal class is the flowering
This tree (Cornus Florida) is generally distributed throughout
the eastern U.S., extending north to southern Michigan and
southern Maine, west into eastern Texas, and south to central
Mexico. It reaches its optimum size in the southern states,
becoming a tree up to 40 feet tall and 14 inches in diameter.
It prefers a dry upland site and appears to obtain its best
form under the cover of taller trees. In some parts of the
nation the presence of dogwood was believed to indicate good
agricultural soils. In Missouri this is not necessarily so,
for beautiful specimens are often and widely found on the
dry, acid soil of our Ozarks forests.
Dogwood in winter appears ungainly, with its
horizontally spreading branches and uptipped buds. The dark
cinnamon-brown, "alligator checked" bark makes the
tree easily recognizable and even seedlings and saplings,
with the reddish blush, the uniform whorled arrangement of
the new branchlets and the upturned tips, enable the amateur
to recognize the plant. The flower buds give promise of next
year¹s splendor: though the temperature may fall to the
zero mark, the dogwood never fails to make known spring's
Late March or early April sees the buds begin
to break open and the four petals, (protective bud scales
or bracts) begin growing at the base, gradually enlarging,
until the overall size ranges from three to four inches across
and the color runs from green, through yellow, to a brilliant white. The flower takes
the shape of
an ivory maltese cross and all the blooms open at the same
time on any one tree and are extended in layers with shadowy
spaces between. Each flower is held at right angles to the
light and the tree in the open covers itself with an umbrella
of color that appears to be shaped by the dome of the sky.
The tree in the woodland border seems to concentrate its blossoms
on the more open side, as though attempting to please the
attention of the passing motorist.