Dogwood Black And White
A Christian legend of unknown origin proclaims that the cross used to crucify Jesus was constructed of dogwood. As the story goes, during the time of Jesus, the dogwood was larger and stronger than it is today and was the largest tree in the area of Jerusalem. After His Crucifixion, Jesus changed the plant to its current form: He shortened it and twisted its branches to assure an end to its use for the construction of crosses. He also transformed its inflorescence into a representation of the Crucifixion itself, with the four white bracts cross-shaped, which represent the four corners of the Cross, each bearing a rusty indentation as of a nail and the red stamens of the flower, represents Jesus' Crown of Thorns, and the clustered red fruit represent His Blood.
In the Victorian Era, flowers or sprigs of dogwoods were presented to unmarried women by male suitors to signify affection. The returning of the flower conveyed indifference on the part of the woman; however, if she kept it, it became a sign of mutual interest.
The term "dogwood winter", in colloquial use in the American Southeast, is sometimes used to describe a cold snap in spring, presumably because farmers believed it was not safe to plant their crops until after the dogwoods blossomed.
Dogwoods have simple, untoothed leaves with the veins curving distinctively as they approach the leaf margins. Most dogwood species have opposite leaves, while a few, such as Cornus alternifolia and C. controversa, have their leaves alternate. Dogwood flowers have four parts. In many species, the flowers are borne separately in open (but often dense) clusters, while in various other species (such as the flowering dogwood), the flowers themselves are tightly clustered, lacking showy petals, but surrounded by four to six large, typically white petal-like bracts.
The fruits of all dogwood species are drupes with one or two seeds, often brightly colorful. The drupes of several species in the subgenera Cornus and Benthamidia are edible. Many are without much flavor. Cornus kousa and Cornus mas are sold commercially as edible fruit trees. The fruits of Cornus kousa have a sweet, tropical pudding like flavor in addition to hard pits. The fruits of Cornus mas are both tart and sweet when completely ripe. They have been eaten in Eastern Europe for centuries, both as food and medicine to fight colds and flus. They are very high in vitamin C. However, those of species in subgenus Swida are mildly toxic to people, though readily eaten by birds.
Dogwoods are widely planted horticulturally, and the dense wood of the larger-stemmed species is valued for certain specialized purposes. Cutting Boards and other fine turnings can be made from this fine grained and beautiful wood.
April 16th, 2013
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