The tree known around the world

The tree known around the world:
As I write this article on a warm day in April, I cannot help but think of Missouri State’s Tree, the
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida). In about two weeks, our oak hickory forests of the Missouri
Ozarks will be accented by the white blossoms of the flowering dogwood, appearing like lace in the
understory canopy of the forests. Many a spring I have walked down a quite dirt road in the
countryside admiring this annual display of beauty.
Last June I met a retired botanist by the name of Alastair and his wife Betty who ran the Churchill
Guest house in Dover, United Kingdom. Although Alastair had grown up in Africa, worked as a
landscaper in Portugal and London, and now ran a bed and breakfast below Dover Castle, upon
showing him pictures of an Ozark forest lit up with the annual display of the native dogwoods in full
bloom, he sighed and said with much envy, “Ah yes, the great American flowing dogwood.” He had
never been to “The States,” but knew a great deal about this tree native to the temperate deciduous
forests of the Eastern Unites States.
You see, we in the Ozarks are blest to have one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the world
native to our region. Growing up to 30 feet tall, these native trees are rather easy to grow if placed in
the right habitat in your garden landscape.
Because root rot is a potential problem in growing the flowering dogwood, it is best to find a spot in
your garden that has average soil moisture content, is well drained and slightly acidic. They grow best
when planted under a high, deciduous tree canopy or on the edge of the forest where they receive
dappled shade and their roots remain consistently cool amidst the leaf litter or mulch of the forest floor.
The mistake of many growers is to plant the flowering dogwood in harsh full sun conditions, which are
not suitable habitat for the proper growth of the tree.
University of Missouri Specialists suggest growing dogwoods on the east or north side of a residence.
I can attest that this works wonderfully, having grown a dogwood on the northeast corner of my house
when I lived in St. Louis for years. This side of the house
remains cooler, and receives less intense sunlight than other
The dogwood has a shallow fibrous root system that cannot
withstand drought. Last summer in southern Missouri, the
flowering dogwoods in the forest understory were more
stressed than other trees in the woodland. They were so wilted,
and the air so hot and dry, I was not sure they were going to
make it till the end of summer. It is important to water your
dogwood tree in times of drought.
Besides their glorious display of blossoms in the spring,
dogwoods are also noted for their red fall color. For selections
of dogwood varieties, see the extension guide # G6805
“Selecting landscape Plants: Flowering Trees,” available at .2
We should be proud to call the flowering dogwood our state tree. In a few weeks when the dogwoods
are in full bloom, don’t forget to go to a park in the surrounding Ozark highland to view this display of
woodland blossoms which is known, and envied by some, around the world. 3