Dogwood Trees Supply Spring Time Beauty at Lake of the Ozarks
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 dogwood.
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 arrival.
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.
Thong Trees Are Part of Lake of the Ozarks History
Early Native Americans marked trails with trees, bent to grow in an unusual fashion. Called thong trees, they are found throughout the Lake of the Ozarks area and were created to mark trails, springs, herbs used for medicinal purposes, salt supplies, and caves, etc...
Old-timers sometimes referred to the trees as "water trees" because they pointed to a spring or a river or 'buffalo trees" because the Native American women would air their buffalo hides over the bent trees. One of these thong trees can be viewed easily from the road. It is located in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park on Hwy 42. Follow Hwy 134 (off Hwy 42) to the Trail Information Center Cabin in the Park. Turn right onto Whispering Oaks Road (at the Trail Information Center). Travel 1.4 miles. The thong tree is on the left side of the road.