The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Flowering Dogwoods

It’s not hard to see why flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are classed as one of America’s most breathtaking native trees. These gorgeous flowering trees dazzle admirers with their lovely white, pink, or red flowers. As well as being beautiful, flowering dogwood flowers are also steeped in history and cultural significance. In this article, we’ll explore the various meaning and symbolism of flowering dogwood in the language of flowers.

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowering Dogwood Flowers – The Essentials

Flowering dogwood flowers are strongly linked to Christianity, symbolizing rebirth and renewal. Flowering dogwood flowers also represent purity, strength, and resilience. In Victorian floriography, flowering dogwood flowers were used to gauge whether someone would reciprocate romantic feelings.

About Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

About Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Family, Genus, & Taxonomy

Flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are flowering trees from the Cornaceae family. These trees belong to the dogwood genus (Cornus), which contains between 30 and 60 individual species.

Botanical Characteristics

Flowering dogwoods are deciduous flowering trees that can grow over 30 feet high. This relatively small height makes them a good option for smaller yards. Cornus florida trees can live for approximately 80 years.

Flowering dogwoods produce blooms with four bright white, pink, or red bracts. These specialized petals sometimes have faint red spot markings and are designed to attract pollinating insects. The true flowers of Cornus florida form a cluster of tiny yellow-green flowers in the center of each flower head.

Like many dogwoods, flowering dogwoods have exceptionally dense hardwood. From late summer to early fall, flowering dogwoods produce vibrant red berries – a vital food source for birds. The fruits are exceptionally bitter and sour, making them inedible to humans.

History & Origins of Flowering Dogwood

Flowering dogwood is endemic to North America and has grown here for thousands of years. Previously, the native range of Cornus florida covered much of the southeastern United States all the way to Texas. Flowering dogwood can be grown in most temperate conditions around the world.

Popular Cultivars, Species, & Types

Some of the most popular cultivars of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) include:

Etymological Meaning

Flowering dogwood’s scientific name, Cornus florida, derives from the Latin words “cornu”, meaning ‘horn’, and “flos” which translates as ‘flower’. “Cornu” reflects the hardness of the wood, while “flos” represents the beautiful flowers.

Cornus florida is also known as American dogwood, Cornelian tree, Florida dogwood, Indian arrowwood, or white dogwood.

What Regions are Flowering Dogwood Flowers Native to?

Flowering dogwood is indigenous to the southern and southeastern United States. Its native range spans from Maine and southern Michigan down to northern Florida and eastern Texas. Cornus florida also grows in parts of the Midwest, including Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

When are Flowering Dogwood Flowers in Season?

When are Flowering Dogwood Flowers in Season?

Cornus florida flowers are in season from early April to the end of May. Flowers emerge earlier for specimens in warmer southern areas. Flowering dogwoods in colder, more northern areas start flowering from mid to late April.

Uses and Benefits of Flowering Dogwood

Flowering dogwood’s dense, hardwood has historically been used to craft wooden products like mallets and tool handles. It was also fashioned into luxury items like jewelry boxes or heads for golf clubs. Cornus florida has also been used to make red dyes or inks.

The bark and roots of flowering dogwood were used in traditional Native American medicine. These parts of the plant were mainly used as a treatment for malaria. Parts of the flowering dogwood plant were also used as remedies for dogs with mange.

Flowering dogwoods are fantastic small trees for gardens and backyards. Their flowers attract vital pollinators like bees and butterflies. The berries are an important food source for wild birds during summer and fall.

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Flowering Dogwood Flowers

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Flowering Dogwood Flowers

Meaning & Symbolism of Flowering Dogwood Flowers

Flowering dogwood flowers have several symbolic meanings. Cornus florida flowers are strongly associated with rebirth, renewal, and resurrection. This stems partly from their link to Christianity but also because the flowers emerge in the spring.

Flowering dogwood flowers also represent qualities like durability, strength, reliability, and resilience. This can be attributed to flowering dogwood’s exceptionally hard, strong wood. Flowering dogwood flowers can help communicate strength and solidarity to someone struggling with difficult circumstances.

Common Flowering Dogwood Colors and Their Meaning & Symbolism

White Flowering Dogwood flowers

White Flowering Dogwood flowers

Cornus florida varieties with white flowers can represent hope, innocence, and purity. Like other white flowers, flowering dogwoods make excellent flowers for weddings. These occasions are linked to purity and innocence, especially in Christianity.

White is the most common flower color for flowering dogwoods. White flowers also symbolize renewal and rebirth, which further ties in with the relationship between Cornus florida flowers and Christianity.

Pink Flowering Dogwood flowers

Pink Flowering Dogwood flowers

Some varieties of flowering dogwood have pink flowers, which represent affection and love. The association between pink flowers and affection doesn’t just include romantic feelings but also affection for friends and family. Pink flowering dogwood flowers can be used to convey both platonic and romantic affection.

Red Flowering Dogwood flowers

Red Flowering Dogwood flowers

Flowering dogwoods cultivars with red flowers are rare and symbolize love and passion. Red flowers are also associated with beauty and power. Red flowers are mainly used to communicate romantic love and passion between partners or lovers.

Geographical Symbolism of Flowering Dogwood Flowers

Flowering dogwood flowers are closely linked to several US states. Flowering dogwood is the official state tree of Missouri and the recognized state flower of North Carolina. In Virginia, Cornus florida is the official state flower and the official state tree.

Flowering Dogwood Flowers in Christianity

Flowering dogwood is intricately linked to Christianity and symbolizes hope, purity, and renewal. More specifically, flowering dogwood symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The cross that Jesus was crucified on was made from dogwood, hence the connection.

Flowering dogwood flowers are usually white with faint red dots. Some Christians believe that these markings represent the blood of Christ and the markings of the Crucifixion.

Meaning & Symbolism of Flowering Dogwood in Victorian Times

During the Victorian age, flowers were often used by prospective lovers to exchange courtship messages or romantic feelings. An entire catalog of flower meanings evolved known as floriography or the ‘language of flowers’.

In Victorian floriography, flowering dogwood flowers were used to judge the interest of a potential lover. A young man would gift a flowering dogwood flower to a young lady he admired. If she returned the flower, she didn’t share his affection. But if she kept the flower, it meant that she also found him attractive.

The Victorians also continued associating flowering dogwood with durability, strength, reliability, and resilience.

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Flowering Dogwood Flowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Flowering Dogwood Flowers

Flowering dogwood flowers make excellent floral gifts for a range of occasions. Different flower colors can convey different messages when given as gifts. Flowering dogwoods symbolize strength and resilience, making them a thoughtful gift for someone who is experiencing a difficult event.

White flowering dogwood flowers represent purity and innocence and make fantastic wedding flowers. Pink flowering dogwood blooms can convey affection for anybody, including family, friends, or romantic partners. Red flowering dogwood flowers make a unique choice for communicating love and passion to someone on Valentine’s Day.

Flowering dogwoods are closely linked to Christianity, making them ideal gifts for Christian events. White flowering dogwoods are an excellent choice for Easter because these flowers symbolize the resurrection of Christ. White flowering dogwoods could also be suitable for baptisms because they represent purity.

Flowering Dogwood Symbolism FAQs:

What do Flowering Dogwood flowers symbolize?

Flowering dogwood flowers symbolize strength and reliability as well as purity and innocence. These flowers are strongly linked to Christianity and represent the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Do Flowering Dogwood flowers symbolize love?

Pink or red flowering dogwood flowers can symbolize different types of love. Pink flowers represent affection for friends, family, and romantic partners. Red flowering dogwood flowers represent romantic love and passion.

Do Flowering Dogwood flowers come back every year?

Flowering dogwoods are small perennial trees that will come back every year. They are deciduous and will shed their leaves in fall and winter.

How long do Flowering Dogwood flowers last?

Flowering dogwood flowers typically bloom from early April until the end of May. The first blooms emerge earlier in warmer areas and later in colder regions.

Are Flowering Dogwood plants toxic?

Flowering dogwood plants are not believed to be toxic, although the berries are extremely unpleasant and inedible to humans. Cornus florida plants are not considered to be toxic for pets either.

Flowering Dogwood Meaning – The Final Word

Flowering dogwoods are one of America’s most beloved native flowering plants. Cornus florida symbolizes qualities like strength, resilience, purity, innocence, and affection. Flowering dogwood flowers are also strongly associated with Christianity, particularly the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.


Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

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