The dogwood tree explodes into riotous bloom each year on Easter Week. Strangely, this remains true, year after year, regardless whether Easter falls in March or April–it is always, always Easter week that the dogwood petals reach their maximum opulence.
There are legends about this, and about the shape of the flowers on the dogwood tree.
Easter Legend of the Dogwood Tree
Many years ago, a dogwood tree grew on a hill outside Jerusalem. In those days, the dogwood tree was as tall and mighty as an oak, and this tree was the tallest of all the dogwoods, and extremely proud of its strength.
“Something wonderful is going to happen to me,” it said to anyone who would listen. “I’ll probably become the mast that holds the big sail on a grand ship, or the main timber supporting a great house.”
Unfortunately, the huge old dogwood was cut down to become the cross to which Jesus was nailed. The tree was horrified. All its dreams of glory were smashed, and it groaned in agony as two boards from its trunk were nailed together.
Jesus took pity on the tree, even as he carried it to Calvary. “You will never be put to such use again,” He told it. “From this day on, your shape will change, even as will the world. You will become slender and sway easily with the breeze. And instead of acorns, you will bear flowers in the shape of a cross… with two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal, there will be nail prints… brown with rust and red with bloodstains to show the world how you have suffered.”
“Last of all, the center of your flowers will be marked as though with a crown of thorns to remind people forevermore, that you and I spent our last moments together.” And so it was. And so it is.
Dogwood trees are indeed smaller than most trees. And the flowers do indeed resemble a cross, with what appear almost to be nail prints at the end of each of the four petals:
And some of the flowers contain red coloring, reminding one of the drops of blood shed at the crucifixion, as in here:
Some more on the Legend of the dogwood tree:
Learn more about dogwoods, including planting and proper care of them, from the United States National Arboretum.