As far as impromptu plans go, the weekend saw the arrival of my brother-in law and family, for their annual family spring break. Knowing the grand plans for the garden, one of the first things my co-sister did was to hand over the dogwood sapling that she had brought for me. It was while reading up on the care of the sapling and requirements for growing a potted dogwood plant, that I had come across the legend of the dogwood tree.
Highly popular in the yard but also grows in the wild, Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood is a species of flowering tree in the family Cornaceae. It is a deciduous tree with beautiful bract and bark structure. Yet when in full bloom, the beauty of the white blossoms each spring have an enchanting effect. As the legend goes, dogwood trees were initially large trees during the ancient years, such that the strong sturdy wood were used for building structures. It was believed that this tree provided the wooden cross used for the crucifixion. On this role, it was then both cursed and blessed. It was cursed to be small so that its’ wood would never be large enough and branches crooked and narrow to build anything sturdy from it; but blessed so as to produce beautiful flower for spring each year.
“The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God.” Thomas Merton
Other factors adding up to the legend are the white blossoms of the tree. Each flower has four petals, forming the shape of the cross with the middle having a tight grouping resembling the “crown of thorns”. The tip of each petal is dented, each nail dent bearing a pink or red staining, similar to a drop of blood.
With growing hybridization and tissue cultivation, there are many varieties of dogwood trees with pink flowering ones, purplish red bracts or variegated foliage. Regarding the potted dogwood tree, it mayn’t grow to be as big as the tree, but it requires an immense amount of care, regular pruning and plenty of water to make sure it stays on. While the pot this time holds a couple of blossoms, the year next can only show its’ beauty of the care it received. As far as the legend goes, this too could be just a couple of facts re-aligned to form a story. Yet to true or not, it is a beautiful creation of His, bringing out His Promise to man.
“To see a hillside white with dogwood bloom is to know a particular ecstasy of beauty, but to walk the gray Winter woods and find the buds which will resurrect that beauty in another May is to partake of continuity.” Hal Borland
The Dogwood Tree
When Christ was on earth, the dogwood grew
To a towering size with a lovely hue.
Its branches were strong and interwoven
And for Christ’s cross its timbers were chosen
Being distressed at the use of the wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
“Not ever again shall the dogwood grow
To be large enough for a tree, and so
Slender and twisted it shall always be
With cross-shaped blossoms for all to see.
The petals shall have bloodstains marked brown
And in the blossom’s center a thorny crown.
All who see it will think of Me,
Nailed to a cross from a dogwood tree.
Protected and cherished this tree shall be
A reflection to all of My agony.”