12. Eastern Dogwood

(Cornus florida)

Other Common Name: Flowering Dogwood

Family: Cornaceae
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On the lawn north of the Electrical Engineering building stands a solid mass of foliage, tightly set on closely spaced twigs. In winter, the tree's naked silhouette is appealing, as is the rough chunky bark on its two trunks. In May the copious white flowers are stunningly attractive. This species from eastern North America is one of the most familiar and beloved flowering trees. Its fall color can also be superb. Many specimens are planted around campus. Our native counterpart Pacific dogwood is leggier, larger, and nowhere near so amenable to cultivation.

Eastern dogwood is an extremely hardy species. It can succeed in any soil of good or moderate fertility and can withstand temperatures down to -13° F (-25°C). The wood is heavy, strong, and extremely shock resistant. It has been used to produce wheel hubs, tool handles, and the heads of golf clubs. A red dye can be obtained from the fibrous roots. The twigs of this tree can be peeled and used as toothbrushes and can be chewed to create natural paintbrushes. This tree was an important source of medicinal substances to the native people who lived within its native range. The fruits, seeds, flowers, and twigs of this tree are an extremely valuable food source to many species of wildlife including: chipmunks, foxes, skunks, rabbits, deer, beavers, black bears, and many species of birds. However, the seeds of this tree are poisonous to humans.

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