Through the years, the dogwood tree has been used to represent different meanings, including peace, strength, rebirth, fertility, love, protection, and healing.
There are several stories and myths involving the Dogwood Tree, but the most popular one to date can be traced back to Christianity. An Easter legend narrates how the tree was chopped, and its wood, which was then known for being strong and straight, was used for the crucifixion Jesus Christ.
However, it is said that after the crucifixion, the physical appearance of the tree has changed drastically from the alleged tall and sturdy trunk of ancient Jerusalem to what it is at present, short and shrub-like.
Symbolism of the Dogwood Tree
The Dogwood Tree is shrouded in mystery and as such, there are many myths and superstitions surrounding its history.
One belief is that is it bad luck to burn the wood of the tree or to pluck its flowers to bring home. Another is that the tree possesses defensive powers and carrying a piece of it with you will serve as an amulet.
Stories are also circulating about how Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of the State of Virginia, loved the trees so much that he planted them in his own home. Eventually, the flowers became recognized as the state flower in 1918, followed by the tree becoming the state tree in 1956.
Aside from Virginia, the states of North Carolina and Missouri also recognized the Dogwood, appointing it as the state flower in 1941 and as the state tree in 1955, respectively.
Depending on your religious beliefs, the tree can represent different meanings in your life and relationships.
1. Symbol of Fertility, Youth, and Vitality
Compared to other trees which can live up to hundreds or even thousands of years, the Dogwood Tree has a considerably shorter life span, ranging from 40 to 80 years.
However, it is a generous tree as it is abundant in producing leaves and flowers, and their barks are very useful in many ways. For these reasons, the tree has been associated with fertility.
In the Chinese culture, the Dogwood Tree is one of the trees associated with youthfulness and energy as the image of fresh and vibrant flowers bring a positive vibe inside the home. It is also seen as a symbol for happiness in love and marriage, as well as a sign of good health.
For some Native American tribes such as the Mohawks, it is believed that the legendary Tree of Life in the Skyworld, said to be the source of all plants on earth, is actually an enormous Dogwood Tree.
2. Symbol of Calm and Peace
The tree is commonly used in aromatherapy because of its relaxing scent, and it is said to have the ability to relieve stress.
Combined with its short but sturdy body, the tree has been used to symbolize calmness and determination.
In several books and writings, the mention of a Dogwood Tree refers to a time of peace before the storm. It is a warning to stay alert and protect yourself from danger, deception, and fraud, particularly from people who seem to be on your side.
3. Symbol of Durability
The wood from the trunk of the Dogwood tree is very solid and has high resistance against cracks and breakage.
For this reason, it became popular for its strength and durability, becoming the base material in the older times for items requiring heavy contact such as golf clubs, machine bearings, and even as wheels.
Both the flower and the tree are also known for their ability to endure and live through unfavorable conditions, despite their small and fragile appearance.
4. Symbol of Affection and Love
The flowers of the Dogwood Tree were used during the Victorian era as a bridge between potential lovers.
During the courtship period, a male suitor would send Dogwood flowers to the woman he loves to signify his interest in starting a relationship. It is said that the woman would keep the flowers if the feelings are reciprocated, while she would return them as a sign of rejection.
The different colors of the Dogwood flower are also used to convey different meanings of love and affection. White flowers represent pure and innocent love and is used to express feelings of friendship or familial piety.
Pink flowers speak of a budding romance, usually given at the start of a relationship or during courtship. Red flowers represent passion and desire, more suitable for lovers in long-term relationships.
Other colors such as Orange and Purple flowers can be used to represent the status of the relationship, such as happiness, camaraderie, and health.
5. Symbol of Rebirth and Renewal
If you look closely, you will see that the flowers of the Dogwood Tree look like a cross, while at the center you will see an illusion that looks like a crown of thorns.
The strength of the wood was also reputed to be the reason why ancient Romans preferred to use it as crosses to implement the capital punishment of crucifixion at that time, and so it was used for Jesus Christ himself.
These legends have circulated in the Christian community, and is deeply embedded in their celebration of Easter.
The story goes on to tell of how the Dogwood Tree used to be majestic, standing tall and straight as it reached up to the skies. Its wood was a popular choice for carpenters because of its strength and resilience, as well as its smooth surface.
However, it was also because of these qualities that it was often used as a cross to punish criminals, and this saddened the tree.
After Jesus was crucified, the Dogwood tree wished to change its physical appearance to make it unsuitable for a cross. Thus, the Dogwood Tree was reborn and made to look different was from it looked like in ancient times.
Its trunk that was supposed to be tall, straight, and perfect for carpentry have now become the short and crooked one that we have come to know.
In exchange, the tree started to bear beautiful flowers that would forever symbolize the story of the crucifixion – the four petals resembling the cross, and the blood-stained crown of thorns as its pistil.
6. Symbol of Protection and Healing
In Native American folklore, there are a couple of myths involving the Dogwood tree from the Cherokee tribe. One is a story about the Dogwood people, described as kind, gentle, and tiny creatures living in the Dogwood tree.
They were allegedly sent to earth to protect babies, take care of the old ones, and to teach each generation to take care of the earth and live in harmony with nature. Cherokees sometimes refer to them as “Brownies”.
Another folklore is the tale of the elegant Cherokee princess who was killed by a rejected suitor. As she lay dying near the body of the Dogwood Tree, she used the fallen flowers to soak up her blood and heal her soul, which is why the flowers have a red stain on its petals today.
The tree is also used for healing by the Native Americans, with its different parts used to treat specific illnesses. The outer bark is commonly applied for malaria, fever, pneumonia, and diarrhea, while the inner bark relieves headaches, or is mixed with tobacco for their sacred pipes. Dogwood sap was also sometimes used as poison, while the twigs would function as a toothbrush.
Dogwood Tree in Dreams
There are very few references about Dogwood Trees in Dreams and most of them hint at problems and issues that you have yet to be aware of, such as the examples below.
- Seeing a dead Dogwood Tree is a sign of upcoming difficulties and misery in the coming days. But watching it come back to life afterwards mean recovery from pain or sickness, and that there will be better days ahead
- Looking at a Dogwood Tree hints at feelings of insecurity and fear. You are subconsciously looking for shelter and someone to protect you.
The stories about the Dogwood tree are very varied and distinct, while also deeply embedded in long-standing folklore of older civilizations. However, the symbolism and meaning that the tree tries to convey still remain true and applicable even at present times.
While the physical parts of the tree can be used to heal physiological ailments, its actual existence can also be used to relax our mind, soothe our spirits, and bring peace to our souls. For Christian believers, the Dogwood Tree stands as a testament of faith and the fulfillment of a promise. Let the presence of the Dogwood Tree remind you to stay strong despite difficulties and to find peace even in the middle of adversity.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.