The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

March 14, 2012

Deciphering the Dogwood: The Legend and Lore

PALESTINE — As the City of Palestine prepares for the 74th Annual Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration, we explore the legend surrounding the unique flowering tree.

According to online sources, the dogwood tree has taken on symbolic meaning for many cultures.

In Christianity, it is said that it was used by the Romans to make the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Legend states that at the time it grew tall and strong oak-like tree. The dogwood was ashamed of its role and begged forgiveness of Jesus, who transformed it to have slender and gnarled branches that could never again be made into a cross. So that this would not be forgotten, he made the dogwood flower into a cross with blood-red stained nail prints at the edges with a crown of thorns in the middle.

Native American legend also gives testimony to the cultural impact of the dogwood.

According to Native American folk lore, a powerful chief demanded rich gifts from suitors for his four daughters. The gods were angry with his greedy behavior and turned him into a small tree with low branches that would never grow tall. His four daughters are still attendant in the four petals of the blossom.  

Native Americans had many uses for the dogwood, both practical and medicinal. Dogwood bark was chewed to release analgesic compounds to treat headaches, fever, toothaches, colic and other pains. Arrow shafts, daggers and other tools were made from the tough wood and the blossoming of the dogwood tree signaled that it was time to plant corn.  

Dogwood species in China have also been widely explored for their ethnobotanical uses.

For instance, the fruits of one species are known as “Zhu Yu” or “Zao Pi” in Chinese medicine and prescribed as an astringent tonic for lumbago, vertigo, night sweats and more. Several Chinese species contain oils that are used commercially and some are even used as remedies for arthritis and other injuries.

Join us as we celebrate this remarkable tree and its cultural significance. The dogwood tree has left its mark on many cultures worldwide; shouldn’t it leave a mark on you?

The Dogwood Trails Celebration takes place the last weekend in March with the Dogwood Trails Festival to kick-off the festivities, and the first two weekends in April when the dogwood trees are in full bloom.

This year, mark your calendars for Saturday, March 24 for your trip to the festival and keep up with the progress of the blooms on the official “Dogwood Bloom Watch” at

You can get information about the festival and the other events happening during the three weekends of the celebration at Also, like us on Facebook at to learn more dogwood trivia and special information about the festivities.

Keep an eye out for our next article on the Dogwood Trails in the 6-part series,

“Dogone it! Why Won’t my Dogwood Tree Bloom?”

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