Legend of the Dogwood Tree

What is the Legend of the Dogwood?

My mom first told me about the legend of the dogwood. As a child, I was totally fascinated. As an adult, I must admit, I am still fascinated. The lovely dogwood is native to the eastern United States and grows from New England to the Gulf Coast. Some species grow as far as eastern Texas. I grew up in Indiana and I can remember the edges of the woods bursting with white dogwood blooms every spring. Those beautiful blossoms were a portent of the end of winter and a promise of warmer weather.

According to legend, at the time of the crucifixion of Christ, dogwood trees grew tall and strong in Israel. Therefore, when it came time to build the cross, the dogwood tree was the natural choice. This choice forever changed the appearance of the tree. After Jesus died on the cross, he both cursed and blessed the dogwood. He cursed the tree by diminishing its size and tangling its branches. He blessed the tree with abundant blossoms that bloom every spring as a reminder of the resurrection of Christ. As the story goes, three days after the crucifixion, on Easter, Christ rose from the grave and all the dogwoods were awash with white blossoms for the first time.

Unique Characteristics of the Dogwood that Support the Legend

Dogwood Blooms - Legend of the Dogwood
Legend of the Dogwood – petals that form the shape of a cross

Petals – The blossoms of the dogwood tree have four petals and form the shape of a cross. The most common color is white, but pink dogwoods are also popular.

Center – The center of the dogwood blossom has a tight cluster that resembles the crown of thorns that Christ wore on the cross.

Petal Color – The tips of the dogwood blossom are tinged with dark red, reminiscent of the blood of Christ.

Is the Legend True?

Like most legends there is some debate about whether or not the legend of the dogwood is actually true. According to the website Inger.wordpress.com, the dogwood is not native to Israel. Therefore, it would not be growing during the time of the crucifixion. There is also no mention of the dogwood in the Bible.

Most likely, the legend to connects a 20th century poem.

In Jesus’ time, the dogwood grew to a stately size and lovely hue. ‘Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven. For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen. Seeing the distress at this use of their wood Christ made a promise which still holds good: “Never again shall the dogwood grow large enough to be used so. Slender and twisted, it shall be with blossoms like the cross for all to see. As blood stains the petals marked in brown, the blossom’s center wears a thorny crown. All who see it will remember Me crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree. Cherished and protected, this tree shall be a reminder to all of My agony.”

– Author Unknown

It is not clear whether the author heard the legend and wrote the poem or whether the legend stems from the poem. Either way, the beautiful blooming dogwood is always a reminder of the promise of spring and the time of Easter.

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