It is interesting how many states have chosen to use a flowering tree as their state flower. North Carolina has chosen the flowering dogwood as the North Carolina state flower. There are a couple of funny things about the North Carolina state flower. The first funny thing I already mentioned when I noted that many states have chosen flowering trees as their state flowers. North Carolina chose a flowering tree for their state flower. Upon closer observation, the dogwood yields a few more funny things. I always believed that the dogwood flower was pretty large, about the size of my palm, and white. However, I learned today that the dogwood flowers are actually tiny, yellow flowers that grow together in clusters of about twenty. The large white or pink or red things which I thought to be petals are actually something else altogether. They are called bracts.
These bracts have a distinctive notch at the point of the petal. I was told when I was young that the dogwood tree had something to do with the crucifixion of Christ. That was the reason for the four white petals in the shape of a cross, and the red on the end of each petal was left from the blood of Christ. I do not remember what I was told the tree had to do with the crucifixion, but the story, along with the visual reminder, has stayed with me. We had a dogwood tree in my backyard, even though I am not from North Carolina where it is the North Carolina state flower. Every year I would notice the flowering of the tree and look closely for the red notches on the end of each of the bracts. I guess I didn’t look closely enough, because I didn’t remember the grouping of tiny, yellow flowers that are actually the flowers of the dogwood tree. Maybe I just never realized that those were the flowers. I might have just assumed that they were the inner, pollinating members of the flower. Whatever I assumed they were, I didn’t remember them until I was reading up on the flowering dogwood just now.
The other thing I remember about the North Carolina state flower is the joke about dogwoods. How can you tell if a tree is a dogwood tree? By its bark. The funny thing about this joke is that I really did learn how to tell a dogwood tree by its bark during summer camp one year. When they are not flowering, the easily distinguishable feature of the dogwood tree is its bark.
The dogwood tree in my backyard was a small tree. It always looked like a sapling. Dogwoods, the North Carolina state flower, can grow up to thirty feet high, but a ten-year-old tree will probably be only around fifteen feet high. Although the tree in my backyard had white bracts as most of the wild trees have, some dogwoods have pink or even red bracts. The bracts are very distinctive and are often taken for the petals of the flower. The flowers themselves are often overlooked. They are inconspicuous, small and yellow, looking to be just the color the center of the flower should be.