There are different stories about where the wood “dogwood” came from. In one version, it evolved from a Celtic word, “dag,” “dagga” or “dagwood” because its slim, hardwood stems were used to create “dags,” a pointy tool like a skewer, arrow or dagger; over time, the “a” became pronounced as an “o.”
While we call them flowers, the four “petals” of each bloom are actually a type of specialized leaf called a bract. The colorful bracts surround tiny yellow flowers.
After the flowers die, a white, blue, or red fruit called a drupe appears. It is eaten by many species including squirrels, deer, rabbits and birds like robins, northern flickers, crows and others. Berries range from tasteless to mildly tart to toxic for humans, depending on the species. In the fall, leaves turn red or purple.
Flowering dogwood root-bark was used by Native Americans as a fever reducer, skin astringent, and a pain reliever for headaches, sores and muscle inflammations.
Since the mid-1970s, the blight dogwood anthracnose has infested the North American species of dogwood, causing particularly severe damage in portions of the eastern U.S.
Flowering dogwood is a soil improver because its leaf litter decomposes more rapidly than most other species. For this reason, flowering dogwood has been planted on abandoned strip mines and used for urban forestry projects.
More than a dozen other U.S. cities celebrate dogwood festivals, including Atlanta.; Charlottesville, Va.; Woodville, Texas; and Milwaukie, Ore., which calls itself the Dogwood City of the West.
— Jennifer Bauer, Inland 360