Legends of the Dogwood

Source:  The Dogwood Garden Club

‘There are many legends of the dogwood: some from modern times, some from ancient times, some funny, some of a religious nature, and some about where the name “dogwood” originated.  One version says that the name, Dogwood, comes from the wood itself which is very hard, dense and rock-like when dry.  The wood was used to make ‘dogs’ or ‘doggerwood’ – an Old English term meaning “a stick used to skewer meat”.  Another version is that of a custom in England to cure mange by washing the dog with it – funny!

From Native American flower lore comes this Dogwood legend.  The Cherokee believed that a tiny people lived amidst the Dogwoods and that this divine little race was sent to teach people to live in harmony with the woods.   The “Dogwood People,” as they were called, were very kind; they protected babies and took care of the old and infirm.  It is said that when the Cherokee learned to speak English – they began to call the Dogwood people “brownies.”

In biblical times, according to one legend, it was Adam’s favorite tree … so the devil sneaks into the Garden of Eden to knock all the blossoms off the Dogwood using a locust tree to climb over the wall surrounding Eden.  But his attempt was foiled, as the Dogwood blossoms were in the shape of a cross, all he could manage was to bite a chunk out of each petal.  This little escapade caused the locust tree to grow thorns so that it could never be used to access the garden again.

It is said that Jesus had a special love for Dogwood trees which had been the size of oak and other forest trees at that time.  So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen for the cross.  To be used thus, for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus with His gentle pity for all sorrow said “because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the Dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross – henceforth it shall be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross” … “two long and two short petals.”

We members of the Dogwood Garden Club have our own legend grown out of the gorgeous weather and beautiful place we live, known lovingly as “Nature’s Wonderland.”   Since we live in the Sierras at 4000 feet, we form the natural snow line during the fall, winter, and spring.  Dogwoods grow profusely in the wilds here, turning beautiful shades of pink & yellow-green in the fall, losing their leaves in the winter and leafing out in the early spring, but they do not bloom until late April or early May.  In our micro-climate it will snow one or more times in May and it is unwise to plant a garden until after the last snow in May, hence our legend:  “Do not plant a garden until it has snowed on the Dogwoods!”’

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