What Do Dogwoods Symbolize? Unveiling the Meaning Behind These Beautiful Trees

Dogwoods have always been an intriguing sight for nature enthusiasts, a beautiful creation that thrives in different parts of the world. They have a rich history, dating back to biblical times, where it is believed that the tree was used to make Jesus’ crucifix. But beyond their aesthetic beauty, dogwoods have long been symbolic of various messages and emotions. These symbolic interpretations harbor a great deal of power and meaning to those who take the time to understand the story behind them. Dogwoods symbolize different things, depending on where they are found, each with an incredible story that sheds light on the tree’s incredible symbolism.

In Japanese culture, for instance, the dogwood tree is seen as a representation of abundance, hope, and renewal. The tree is often referred to as the ‘tree of 1000 memories’ and is believed to be a good omen. Native Americans hold dogwood tree symbolism in high regard for their focus on sacrifice and rebirth. They view the tree as a partial representation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and believe it possesses holy powers, consolidating its use in various ways, such as medicines or decorations. Narratives like these highlight the immense impact that dogwoods have had on the cultural and spiritual beliefs of different regions.

Whether you’re looking for a special gift to offer to a friend in need of hope, or you’d go to a local florist to purchase a bouquet of the state flower, American dogwood, you should seek to get to know the symbolism behind what you’re gifting. Understanding the symbolism behind the dogwood tree and its various meanings offer clarity, power, and deeper appreciation for nature. It’s through this kind of knowledge that we can connect with nature on a holistic level and appreciate the incredible stories behind the beautiful world we live in.

History and origin of dogwood symbolization

The dogwood tree has played a significant role in various cultures around the world for centuries. The tree and its flowers have been used in different ways, from medicine to religious ceremonies. However, the dogwood’s most notable association is with Christianity and its symbolism of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The origin of this symbolism dates back to early Christian traditions. According to one story, at the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood tree was large and robust, and its wood was used to make cross frames. After the crucifixion, it is said that the tree was no longer able to grow large enough to make crosses and was forever changed as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

In addition to its association with the crucifixion, the dogwood tree also holds significance in Native American folklore. Some tribes believed that the tree’s blooms represent the “Four Directions” or the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. The tree also has a long history of medicinal use in Native American and Chinese traditional medicine, being used for treating a variety of ailments.

Other symbolic meanings of dogwood

  • The dogwood flower represents a graceful and loyal spirit, making it a popular gift for loved ones.
  • The dogwood tree is also a symbol of resilience and strength, as it can weather harsh winter conditions and bloom again in the spring.
  • Some cultures associate the dogwood tree with fertility and femininity due to its delicate flowers.

The different types of dogwood tree

There are over 50 different species of dogwood trees, with the most common being the flowering dogwood. This tree is native to Eastern North America and produces showy flowers ranging in color from white to pink and red. Other popular species of dogwood include the Chinese dogwood, the Japanese dogwood, and the kousa dogwood.

Common NameScientific Name
Flowering dogwoodCornus florida
Chinese dogwoodCornus kousa
Japanese dogwoodCornus kousa var. chinensis
Kousa dogwoodCornus kousa

Various types of dogwoods and their symbolic meanings

The dogwood tree is one of the most popular ornamental trees grown in North America, and there are several different species of dogwoods that grow in different regions of the continent. Each species has its own unique features and symbolic meaning attached to it, making it important to know the differences between them.

  • Flowering Dogwood: The flowering dogwood tree is one of the most popular types of dogwoods because of its beautiful white or pink flowers that bloom in early spring. These flowers are often associated with purity, innocence, and new beginnings, making the flowering dogwood a popular choice for weddings and other ceremonies.
  • Pacific Dogwood: The Pacific dogwood is a tree that is native to the west coast of North America, and is known for its large, creamy-white flowers with distinctive yellow centers. In many indigenous cultures, the Pacific dogwood is considered to be a symbol of balance and harmony in nature.
  • Kousa Dogwood: The Kousa dogwood is a tree that is native to Asia and is known for its beautiful pink or white flowers that bloom in late spring or early summer. In many cultures, the Kousa dogwood is a symbol of strength and resilience, and is often associated with longevity, health, and beauty.

Each type of dogwood tree has unique symbolism associated with it, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a tree that symbolizes new beginnings, balance and harmony, or strength and resilience, there is a species of dogwood that will fit your needs.

If you’re looking for a more detailed breakdown of the differences between the various types of dogwoods, refer to the following table:

Type of DogwoodSymbolic Meaning
Flowering DogwoodPurity, innocence, new beginnings
Pacific DogwoodBalance, harmony in nature
Kousa DogwoodStrength, resilience, longevity, health, beauty

By understanding the symbolic meaning of each type of dogwood tree, you can select the perfect tree to suit your needs. Whether you’re planting a tree in your backyard or giving one as a gift, the right species of dogwood can make all the difference.

Religious significance of dogwoods in Christianity

One of the most intriguing stories about dogwoods is the religious significance attributed to them in Christianity. According to legend, the wood used to build the cross on which Jesus was crucified was made from a dogwood tree. Because of this, dogwoods are said to have a special significance in Christian faith.

  • Three petals of the dogwood flower symbolize the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The center of the flower resembles a crown of thorns, which represents the suffering of Jesus Christ. The red tint on the petals also symbolizes the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
  • Christian missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries used dogwoods to help explain the story of Jesus to Native Americans. They would show the flowers and tell the story of the crucifixion, using the different parts of the flower to illustrate different aspects of the story.
  • In the Bible, Jesus spoke of how faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Some Christians believe that the small size of dogwood flowers is a reminder of this teaching, as well as a symbol of humility and the importance of small acts of faith.

Although there is no historical evidence to support the legend of the wood used to build the cross being from a dogwood tree, the powerful symbolism of the plant continues to inspire Christians around the world. Today, it is not uncommon to see dogwood flowers used in Christian art or incorporated into church decorations during the Easter season.

Three petalsHoly Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Crown of thorns centerRepresenting the suffering of Jesus
Red tint on petalsSymbolizing the blood shed by Christ on the cross

Whether or not the legend of the dogwood as the wood used for the cross is true, the Christian symbolism associated with this beautiful plant is powerful and meaningful. For Christians, the dogwood is a reminder of the central tenets of their faith: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for his followers, and the power of faith to move mountains.

Dogwood tree planting and care tips

Dogwoods are beautiful deciduous trees that are commonly found in North America. These trees have a beautiful display of flowers in the spring and their leaves turn red in autumn. They typically grow up to 30 feet tall and require little maintenance once established. Here are some tips on planting and caring for dogwood trees:

  • Location: Dogwood trees thrive in well-drained, moist, and slightly acidic soil. It is best to plant dogwoods in an area that receives partial shade, as they cannot tolerate full sun exposure. They also need protection from strong winds.
  • Planting: When planting a dogwood tree, dig a hole twice the width of the root ball and no deeper than the root ball. Gently place the tree in the hole and backfill with soil, making sure to firmly press down the soil around the roots. Water the tree well, and mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture.
  • Watering: During the first year of planting, water the tree regularly, especially during the summer months. It is important to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot. Once the tree is established, it will not need as much water.

Additionally, here are some more tips on caring for dogwood trees:

  • Fertilization: Dogwoods do not require a lot of fertilizer, but a balanced fertilizer can be applied in the spring once the tree has leafed out.
  • Pruning: The best time to prune a dogwood tree is in late winter or early spring while it is still dormant. Dead or damaged branches should be removed, as well as any branches that cross or rub against each other.
  • Disease and pest control: Dogwood trees can be susceptible to diseases such as powdery mildew and fungal spots, as well as pests like borers and scale insects. Proper sanitation and monitoring can help prevent the spread of disease, and insecticides can be applied if necessary.


Planting and caring for a dogwood tree can be a rewarding experience, as they are a beautiful addition to any landscape. With the right location, soil, and maintenance, a dogwood can thrive and provide enjoyment for years to come.

Symbolic Meaning of DogwoodInterpretation
BlessingIt is believed that the dogwood tree represents a blessing, as it was said to have bloomed in the spot where Jesus Christ was crucified.
ResurrectionThe cross-shaped blooms of the dogwood tree symbolize Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Strength and durabilityDespite being a delicate-looking tree, the dogwood is strong and durable, representing toughness and perseverance.
New beginningsAs the dogwood tree blooms in the spring, it is often associated with new beginnings and fresh starts.

Furthermore, dogwoods have a rich history and symbolic meaning. Here are some interpretations of what dogwoods symbolize:

Festivals and events celebrating dogwoods

Throughout various parts of the world, dogwoods are part of cultural celebrations and events. Here are a few festivals and events that celebrate the beauty and symbolism of dogwoods:

  • The Dogwood Arts Festival: held annually in Knoxville, Tennessee, this festival celebrates the blooming of the dogwood trees with a variety of events and activities, including art shows, music concerts, and a parade.
  • The Atlanta Dogwood Festival: also held annually, this festival celebrates the blooming of the dogwoods in Piedmont Park with a wide range of activities, including food vendors, live entertainment, and an artist market.
  • The Macon Cherry Blossom Festival: while not specifically focused on dogwoods, this festival located in Macon, Georgia, does celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms and dogwoods with events such as the annual International Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

Aside from these festivals, there are also a variety of other events held throughout the year in honor of the dogwood tree. In Virginia, for example, the blooming of the dogwood trees is celebrated with the annual Dogwood Festival, which includes a parade, carnival rides, and other family-friendly activities.

If you’re hoping to get a closer look at these stunning trees, it might be worth considering a trip to one of these festivals or events. You’ll have the opportunity to see dogwoods in full bloom and participate in activities that celebrate the beauty and symbolism of these trees.

Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know that the dogwood tree was once known as the “dagwood” tree? It wasn’t until the 18th century that the name “dogwood” became more widely used.

Regardless of the name used, the beauty and symbolism of the dogwood tree continue to captivate people around the world.

LocationFestival/Event NameDate(s)
Knoxville, TennesseeThe Dogwood Arts FestivalApril
Atlanta, GeorgiaThe Atlanta Dogwood FestivalApril
Macon, GeorgiaThe Macon Cherry Blossom FestivalMarch-April
Virginia Beach, VirginiaThe Virginia Beach Spring FestivalApril

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate the beauty and symbolism of the dogwood tree, whether it’s attending a festival or simply taking a stroll through a nearby park.

So, the next time you see a dogwood tree in full bloom, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and the many cultural celebrations that honor its symbolism.

Dogwood Symbolism in Literature and Poetry

The dogwood tree has played a significant role in literature and poetry, igniting the imagination of writers with its beauty and symbolism. Here are some notable examples:

  • The dogwood in Christian literature: In Christian mythology, the dogwood tree was once a tall and strong tree, used as the wood for the cross on which Jesus was crucified. In sorrow for being used in such a way, the tree is said to have shrunk in size and the characteristic cross shape was formed by the four petals at the end of each bloom. This story has been referenced in various pieces of literature, including poems such as “The Legend of the Dogwood” by William Shakespeare Hays and “The Dogwood Tree” by Robert Browning.
  • The dogwood in Native American poetry: The Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee, have a deep reverence for the dogwood tree. They believe that it represents the four cardinal directions and the four elements of earth, fire, water, and air. The tree’s delicate flowers symbolize purity and innocence. In Cherokee poetry, the dogwood is often used as a symbol of unity and harmony with nature.
  • The dogwood in modern literature: The dogwood tree continues to inspire modern writers. For example, in his novel “A Walk to Remember,” Nicholas Sparks uses the dogwood as a symbol of renewal and grace. The character Jamie, who is dying of cancer, tells her love interest Landon that she wants to be remembered by a blossoming dogwood tree.

Overall, the dogwood tree’s symbolism in literature and poetry varies depending on the culture and context, but often represents themes of sacrifice, purity, renewal, and harmony with nature.

Native American legends and myths associated with dogwoods

The dogwood tree holds significant cultural value in Native American legends and myths. The tree’s delicate blossoms and strong wood make it a symbol of beauty and resilience, and the tree’s mythology honors that significance.

One myth recounts the story of a young Cherokee girl who fell in love with a warrior from an enemy tribe. To protect her lover from her own tribe, the girl fled with him into the forest. As they ran, they heard the sounds of angry warriors behind them. The girl prayed for help, and the spirits answered her pleas by transforming her and her lover into dogwood trees. The warriors arrived in the forest to find only two small dogwood trees with beautiful blossoms.

Another myth tells the story of a powerful spirit named Dalginala, who lived in a dogwood tree. The spirit gave strength to Native Americans who prayed at the tree and offered gifts to the spirit. The tree became a site of pilgrimage, and many believe that the spirits still reside in dogwood trees today.

  • In Cherokee folklore, the four petals of the dogwood blossom represent the four seasons, while the cross-shaped pattern in the petals represents the four directions: north, south, east, and west.
  • Some Apache tribes believed that the dogwood tree had healing powers. They would concoct a tea from dogwood bark to soothe ailments such as sore throats and fever.
  • For the Seminole, the dogwood tree was a symbol of balance and harmony. They believed that the tree had the power to bring peace to warring factions and to restore balance in the world.

Overall, the dogwood tree has held great cultural significance in Native American legend and myth, representing everything from love and resilience to healing and balance. Its enduring beauty and strength have made it a powerful symbol across cultures and mythological traditions.

The following table lists several Native American tribes and their interpretations of the dogwood tree:

TribeInterpretation of the Dogwood Tree
CherokeeThe dogwood tree represents love and protection.
SeminoleThe dogwood tree represents balance and harmony.
ApacheThe dogwood tree has healing powers.

Significance of dogwood flowers and their colors

The dogwood flower is a symbol of strength and resilience, particularly because it blooms during the spring season, which is often associated with rebirth and renewal. Dogwood flowers are available in different colors that come with their own separate connotations and symbols. The following are the most common colors of dogwood flowers:

  • White dogwood flowers: These are often associated with purity, innocence, and new beginnings. White dogwood flowers are popularly associated with Christian legends, and according to the belief, the spots on the flowers symbolize the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.
  • Pink dogwood flowers: These are a symbol of grace, gentility, and elegance. They are often used in decorations for bridal showers, weddings, and other formal occasions.
  • Red dogwood flowers: These are a symbol of love, passion, and desire. They are often used in flower arrangements and bouquets that express romantic sentiments.

The color of dogwood flowers may also influence their market value and demand. For instance, pink dogwood flowers are usually more expensive than white flowers because they are less common.

Another curious thing about dogwood flowers is their number. They always have four petals arranged in a cross-like pattern, which symbolizes the four directions of the world and the importance of balance and harmony. However, some flowers may sometimes have extra petals, which can be a sign of good luck or a genetic mutation.

Color of dogwood flowerSymbols and meanings
WhitePurity, innocence, new beginnings
PinkGrace, gentility, elegance
RedLove, passion, desire

If you are interested in planting dogwood flowers or using them in your landscaping project, remember to choose the right color that matches your intended theme or occasion. Also, consult with your local florists or horticulturists on how to nurture and care for your dogwood flowers to ensure that they grow healthy and vibrant.

Dogwood Artwork and Its Symbolism in Different Cultures

The dogwood tree is a beloved symbol in various cultures around the world. This beautiful tree has been used in art for centuries, and its symbolism is powerful. It has been associated with several themes, including purity, sacrifice, and grief. The following subtopics explore the significance of dogwood artwork and its symbolism in different cultures.

The Significance of the Number 9 in Dogwood Artwork

The number 9 is significant in dogwood artwork because the tree’s four petals and cruciform shape are said to represent the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The number 4 is a holy number in the Christian faith because it represents the four Gospels, while the number 3 represents the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the number 9 represents the culmination of these numbers, making it a sacred number in Christian symbolism.

In Chinese culture, the number 9 is associated with longevity and good luck. The Chinese believe that everything in the universe is connected, and by understanding the underlying principles behind the universe, one can achieve harmony and balance. In numerology, the number 9 is considered to be the most powerful and mystical of all the numbers, representing completion and fulfillment.

  • In Japanese culture, the number 9 is considered unlucky because it sounds similar to “suffering” or “anguish” in Japanese.
  • In Norse mythology, the god Odin hung himself from the world tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to gain knowledge and wisdom.
  • The Aztecs believed that the sun was destroyed and recreated every 52 years, which is 9 cycles of the Mayan calendar.

The significance of the number 9 in dogwood artwork is just one example of how cultural beliefs can influence the interpretation of symbols. Whether you are a Christian or a believer in other faiths, the dogwood tree remains a beautiful and meaningful symbol that has captivated artists and symbolism enthusiasts for centuries.


1. “The Sacred Meaning of the Dogwood Tree.” Owlcation. Accessed August 17, 2021. https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Sacred-Meaning-of-the-Dogwood-Tree.

2. “Patterns of Nine in Chinese Culture.” SunSigns. Accessed August 17, 2021. https://www.sunsigns.org/chinese-culture-nine-patterns/

Overall, the number 9 plays a significant role in the symbolism of the dogwood tree, particularly in Christian and Chinese cultures. Its association with completion and fulfillment adds to the tree’s already powerful symbolism, making it a timeless and beloved symbol in the world of art and spirituality.

Dogwoods as a National and State Symbol in the United States

Dogwood trees are not only known for its breathtaking beauty during the spring season, but it has also been widely regarded as an important national and state symbol in the United States. Here are some reasons why:

  • North Carolina State Flower – Dogwoods have been recognized as the official state flower of North Carolina since 1941. It was chosen by the state’s Garden Club due to its widespread presence in the state’s mountains and piedmont area, as well as its beauty.
  • Virginia State Tree – In Virginia, dogwood is also recognized as the official state tree since 1956. It was chosen by a statewide vote because of its beauty and its importance in Virginia’s history and economy.
  • White House Dogwood Tree – A dogwood tree was planted in the White House lawn in 1941, a gift from the National Garden Club. Since then, it has become a tradition for the First Lady to plant a new dogwood tree in the White House lawn.

Dogwoods have also been used in various other ways to symbolize the United States:

  • During the 1976 United States Bicentennial celebrations, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the event featuring a dogwood tree and the Liberty Bell.
  • The dogwood flower has been used to symbolize the Christian religion in the United States as well. According to legend, the dogwood tree was once tall and large, but after it was used to make the cross of Jesus Christ, it was cursed to forever be small and twisted. Its flowers now bear the marks of the crucifixion – four petals in the shape of a cross, with a rusty or blood-like color around the edge.

Overall, dogwoods have made a significant impact in the United States as a national and state symbol, as well as a religious symbol. Its beauty and symbolism make it a beloved tree among the American people.

What do dogwoods symbolize FAQs

1. What is the meaning behind the dogwood flower?

The dogwood flower represents purity, love, and innocence. It is often used as a symbol of new beginnings.

2. What is the significance of the dogwood tree in Christianity?

In Christianity, the dogwood tree is believed to have been the tree used to make the cross that Jesus was crucified on. The dogwood flowers also have four petals that symbolize the cross and four wounds of Christ.

3. Are there any other cultural meanings associated with dogwoods?

In Japan, dogwoods symbolize strength and vitality. Meanwhile, in China, dogwoods are associated with fertility and good fortune.

4. Do dogwoods have any medicinal properties?

Yes, the dogwood tree has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The bark and berries of the tree have been used to treat fever, headaches, and pain.

5. What is the best way to care for a dogwood tree?

Dogwoods prefer moist and acidic soil. It is also important to prune the tree regularly to promote healthy growth.

6. Can dogwoods be grown in all regions?

The dogwood tree grows best in temperate regions with mild winters and summers. They may struggle in extreme hot or cold climates.

7. What is the best time of year to see dogwoods in bloom?

Dogwood trees typically bloom in the spring, usually between March and May depending on the region.

Closing Thoughts on What Do Dogwoods Symbolize

Thanks for reading our article on what do dogwoods symbolize! Dogwoods have been significant symbols in various cultures for centuries, from representing purity in Christianity to strength and vitality in Japan. Whether you appreciate their aesthetic beauty or their cultural significance, we hope you learned something new from this article. Don’t forget to visit again soon!