At the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood had reached the size of the mighty oak tree. So strong and firm was the wood that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross. To be used for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the dogwood. While nailed upon it, Jesus sensed this, and in his compassion said. “Because of your pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for a cross. Henceforth, it shall be slender, bent, and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross–two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal will be the print of nails. In the center of the flower, stained with blood, will be a crown of thorns so that all who see it will remember.” – The Legend of the Dogwood
I have had a love affair with Dogwood trees for as long as I can remember. As a kid, wandering around the vast woods of my grandfather’s farm, I marveled at how these slight, bent, twisted trees grew under the dense canopy of the hardwoods towering above. In my mind, these were trees with character, distinction and a beautiful flower unlike any other in the forest.
When my wife and I purchased our home almost 20 years ago there were eleven Dogwoods on the property. These wonderful trees bloomed with my azaleas making my yard a spectacular canvas of color that was the envy of my neighbors. Unfortunately we are down to just three and after having just experienced one of the hottest, driest Summers that I can recall I suspect that we will lose one more, the last one in my backyard. The slow demise of my Dogwoods has been affected by both the climate and a disease called Dogwood Anthracnose, sadly neither of which I can control.
Fifteen years ago I planted a Dogwood that was supposedly immune to Dogwood Anthracnose. The sapling was one foot tall when I planted it in my azalea bed. Fifteen years later, it has grown a total of two feet. At that rate of growth, I am afraid I won’t be around to ever see it bloom but I hope that it will survive for another generation to enjoy the pleasures of my memories.
My grandmother told me the story about Jesus and the Dogwood many years ago. It is a silly tale but certainly an envious one. It is a story that cured the questions and imagination of people long before we could Google to get the “facts”. But never the less, this simple, remarkable tree has a story, a reason why. Sadly, it just makes my loss that much more heartbreaking.