In the midst of all the snow and ice this months Print of the Month will surely bring a smile to the lips of anyone who loves the outdoors, especially those warm spring days to come. The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida L.) is one of some 85 species in the Family Cornaceae, known worldwide. Mostly they are small trees or scrubs and may be deciduous (lose their leaves) or evergreen though a few species are perennial herbs (live from year to year instead of sprouting from seed each year). The flowering dogwood is native to North America and northern Mexico and is commonly planted as an ornamental. As Donald Culross Peattie says in his wonderful book entitled “A Natural History of Trees”, “It is a botanist quibble to point out that the four white petals are not petals indeed but bracts…..”. They are beautiful whatever they are called!
While the pure beauty of Flowering Dogwood stands out like a beacon along a wood line and fence row, Cornus florida L. has had a host of economic uses in years past. Its wood is extremely resistance to sudden shock and, in the old days of the sport of golf, was used for heads of golf clubs. Its close grained, hard wood also found a use (and still does) for Chisel handles and for mauls, mallet heads and wedges. The same impact properties made its wood ideal for the making of shuttles in the textile industry. Its inner bark is astringent (the alkaloid cornin or cornic acid is the active principle) so the bark was used by the native Americans to treat malaria and they obtained a scarlet dye from the roots to color bird feathers. When the U.S. Navy blockaded southern ports during the Civil War the Confederacy used Dogwood bark as a substitute for quinine to treat malaria just as the native Americans did. The interesting uses go on and on but mostly today the Flowering Dogwood stands as a beautiful reminder of years past and a welcome addition to any yard. Enjoy and protect our precious natural resources!
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