Virginia State Flower - American Dogwood

The flowering dogwood makes a beautiful, ornamental landscape tree.

The flowering dogwood makes a beautiful, ornamental landscape tree.

The American dogwood has been the state flower of Virginia since 1918. It is both the official state flower and the state tree, defeating the Virginia creeper for state flower. In the past, tannins in the bark of the dogwood were used as coloring in red inks and dyes. The wood of the tree is quite durable and has been used for making tool handles, butcher’s blocks and wooden mallets. Dogwood trees are also popular ornamental trees for landscaping.


Cornus florida is the scientific name for the American dogwood. The tree is sometimes known as the Indian arrow-wood, false boxwood or cornelian tree, although these names are not often in use today. Most times people simply refer to the tree as the flowering dogwood. Like other state trees, the American dogwood is native to the state it represents.

Native Areas

The American dogwood is generally native to the east coast of North America. However, the trees grow in other regions of the United States and Canada. In the U.S., the dogwood is found in Virginia, eastern Kansas, southern Maine, northern Florida, Missouri and eastern Texas. The tree also grows in southern Ontario in Canada and in a few eastern areas of Mexico.


The flowers on the American dogwood tree are either white or pink in color. While Virginia's state flower documentation does not indicate what color the flowers must be, American dogwoods that bear white flowers are more common throughout the state. This hard deciduous tree can grow up to 30 feet in height at maturity. Most dogwoods grow between 15 and 20 feet tall. The leaves are oval in shape. The bark of the tree is rough and broken, giving it the appearance of scaly crocodile skin or dry, cracked mud. Notched bracts protect the clusters of tiny, yellow flowers. The bracts are large and showy. Bracts are a type of leaf, but people often mistake them for the petals of the flower.

Blooming Period

Early May is the normal flowering period for the American dogwood. If the weather is unseasonably warm in the northern regions where the tree grows, the flowers can bloom in late April. Likewise, if the weather remains colder, it may be June before the blossoms reach their peak blooming period. In southern areas where the temperatures are typically warmer in the spring, the tree blooms in late March or early April. Small berries, which are shiny and scarlet red in color, grow in clusters on this flowering plant. In autumn, the leaves on the tree turn yellow to deep red.

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