In Bloom: Flowering Dogwood

Anne Holmes, artist

By Suzanne Wodek

Cornus florida, commonly known as flowering dogwood, is one of our most beautiful native trees that is attractive in all four seasons. The name ‘dogwood’ comes from the oldtime use of the hard, slender stems to make skewers once known as ‘dags’ or ‘dogs’.

This small, deciduous tree typically grows 15 to 30 feet tall with a pyramidal shape. The true flowers are tiny, yellowish-green and insignificant button-like clusters. Each flower cluster is surrounded by four showy, white, petal-like bracts which open flat, giving the appearance of a single 3”- 4” diameter flower. This flower is the state flower of North Carolina.

Dark green, oval-shaped leaves turn attractive shades of red to reddish-purple in autumn. The bright red fruits are bitter and inedible to humans, but are loved by birds and squirrels. The fruits mature in late summer to early fall and often survive until late in the year.

Another attractive feature is the bark pattern that resembles alligator skin. Dogwoods prefer a well-drained acid soil and make an excellent specimen, understory tree or woodland edge tree as long as it receives shade during the heat of the day. Native Americans used the aromatic bark and roots as a remedy for malaria and extracted a red dye from the roots.

Upcoming Events at the Botanical Gardens

Annual Spring Wildflower Walk
Sunday, April 7, 9:30–11:30 a.m.
UNCA Biology Department Professor Dr. David Clark is regarded as one of the premier botanists of South American floras. He has discovered dozens of new plant species while leading more than 20 rainforest plantcollecting expeditions sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society. His research interests include the flora of the southern Appalachians. Join him for an informative walk enjoying spring wildflowers in the Gardens—rain or shine! Meet at the Visitor Center.

Botany by Family
Saturday, April 20, 2–5 p.m.
Ethnobiologist Marc Williams has studied the people, plant, mushroom, microbe connection intensively while learning to employ botanicals and other life forms for food, medicine and beauty. This botany-intensive class will focus on the families of plants found commonly in southern Appalachia. We will cover the differences in how plants look regarding leaves, flowers, fruits and other parts and how this may help in proper identification. We will also look at the best book and web resources for the exploration of botany in the region. A walk through the Gardens to examine various forms of plant material will further emphasize the lessons learned.

Spring Plant Sale
Friday May 3, 12–6 p.m. and Saturday, May 4, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Botanical Gardens and numerous local plant vendors will offer a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers. BGA members will get a 10 percent discount on BGAgrown plants that we sell at the gazebo. As always, this event will take place rain or shine. The Botanical Gardens receives no city, state or federal funds. Instead, we receive our funding exclusively through memberships, donations, gift shop sales and spring and fall plant sales. Free admission and parking on site or nearby.

The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard in Asheville, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Check AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org for a variety of education programs. Educational programs are $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190.

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