A weekend drive to attend one of my sons’ weddings in Orlando, Florida could not have been more perfectly timed. Driving thru the scenic mountain country of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia each way revealed beautiful dogwood trees with white and pink flower blossoms on full display in otherwise open woodlands, with the much larger and later emerging hardwoods still bare of leaves to hide them from view. Driving thru the same locations a week earlier or later, and it may well have been a different scene.
Walking thru the woodlands in early springtime with a bit of chill in the air, one of my favorite sights has always been witnessing the annual blooming of the Dogwood Trees in gentle displays of pink and white, scattered over the hillsides.
Along with early arriving songbirds back from winter migrations, the dogwoods each year signal the arrival of spring, with its promise of beauty, hope, and new beginnings.
Being smaller and a spindlier understory tree, the dogwood is one of the very first trees to bloom in warming rays of the early spring sun, before other much larger oak and hardwood tree neighbors have fully leafed out and cover it over in preferred shade like an umbrella, shielding dogwoods then from the blazing sunlight and heat for the remainder of the summer season.
There is a legend told of the Dogwood Tree, perhaps one of the oldest legends of the Christian era, that in the time of Jesus of Nazareth and the crucifixion, the dogwood was the size of mighty oak trees, so strong and firm that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross.
This story is not to be found in the Bible and the author is unknown, yet generations have told and retold The Legend of the Dogwood so that it has persisted thru time. If not factual, in the least it is interesting that the story of the dogwood has meant so much to so many through the ages, that generations of repetition have served to keep the story and legend alive to this day.
To be used for such a purpose as the crucifixion greatly distressed the tree. Nailed upon it, in His compassion Jesus sensed the sadness, sorrow, and suffering of the tree, and in His mercy assured that it would never be used for such purpose again.
Dense and fine-grained, dogwood timber has been highly prized over the years for small projects, fashioning the wood into such purposeful items as loom shuttles, tool handles, canes, mountain dulcimers, and more. Peeling off the bark and biting the twigs, early pioneers would use dogwoods to scrub and brush their teeth. But the dogwood tree was never again to grow large enough to be used for purposes as it had been that day as a cross for crucifixion, according to the legend.
Even now as a testament to the day, the petals of the Dogwood Tree grow in the shape of a cross, with each petal bearing the reddish stains of blood and a rusty nail, with the crown of thorns in the center, following the legend.
— “The Legend of the Dogwood” —
“And Jesus 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 and bent and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross . . . two long and two short petals . . . .
“And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns . . . .
“. . . . and all who see it will remember.”
Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us. The Dogwood Tree and its blossoms are a beautiful symbol and annual reminder not only of nature’s gentle beauty, but also of mercy, forgiveness, compassion, love, and peace for us all to take to heart and share. Won’t you visit with Mother Nature today? – Jim (and Red!)
“Sometimes Mother Nature has the answers when you do not even know the questions.” – Keith Wynn
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” – Rachel Carson
“Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.” – Juvenal
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“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” – George Washington Carver