North Carolina State Flower - American Dogwood

Flowering dogwoods brighten the landscape in spring, when the trees explode in white or pink.

Flowering dogwoods brighten the landscape in spring, when the trees explode in white or pink.

North Carolina's state flower, the flowering dogwood, is a tree that displays beauty and interest in every season. Its delicate layers of white or pink blooms provide a stunning backdrop as spring unfolds -- generally early March in North Carolina. While the blooms are typically gone within a month, the tree continues to dazzle with its deep green foliage and graceful horizontal branches throughout spring and summer. In autumn, leaves turn a deep scarlet before dropping, and the dogwood's striking bark adds interest in the barren winter.


The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) has pink or white blooms that provide one of the first signs of spring in North Carolina. The trees, which can have one or multiple trunks, typically grow to 20 to 40 feet and are usually wider than they are tall. The petals of the dogwood blooms are actually leaves, called bracts, though they look like flower petals. In the fall, the tree bears small fruit called drupes.


The dogwood wasn't the only contender for North Carolina's official flower. In the 1930s, the daisy was a strong contender, but a bill to designate it the state flower failed. Lawmakers considered the flame azalea, but on March 15, 1941, the legislature passed a bill in favor of the dogwood. The legislature keeps a close watch on the dogwood: A state law prohibits damaging or removing trees growing in the wild.


Dogwoods need about an inch of water per week during the growing season. Oftentimes in North Carolina, adequate water is provided by nature. If your tree is in full sun or the season is particularly dry, you may need to supply additional water. Keep dogwood roots covered with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to help the soil retain moisture. The mulch should start 3 to 4 inches from the trunk of the tree and extend out 8 to 10 feet. Most dogwoods don't need pruning except to remove dead branches. If you need to prune, do it when the tree is dormant to avoid creating access for dogwood borers.


The flowering dogwood isn't just a pretty plant. For years, it was used to treat mange in dogs, and that may be how it got its name. Parts of the tree have been used as a fever reducer, and in Civil War times, an extract from the dogwood was used treat malaria. The wood of the tree has also come in handy. American Indians used branches to make toothbrushes, and the wood of the tree was used in the textile industry to make weaving shuttles in the 1800s.

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