Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

The Legend Of The Dogwood

The Dogwoods are in full bloom in the Southern Highlands of Appalachia. The blooms are right on schedule-how do I know? Last weekend was Dogwood Winter the trees were blooming and we had a cold snap with scattered areas of frost. (each spring-we have a cold spell when the dogwoods are blooming-old timers call it dogwood winter)

legend of the dogwood tree

I’ve known the legend of the Dogwood since I was a small child-I might have learned about it in Sunday School or maybe Pap or Granny told me. I found the old postcard above in a collection The Deer Hunter’s Great Grandmother kept it tells the legend better than I could:

There is a legend, that at the time of the Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this, and in His gently pity for all sorrow and suffering said to it: “Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross…two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember… 

I’ve always had a fondness for Dogwood trees-there are too many to count growing around my mountain holler-but I have a favorite one. The Dogwood in the photo at the top of the post holds special memories for me-it’s in Granny and Pap’s backyard. When we first moved into their house I was 4 years old. Pap made me a wooden swing and hung it on the curving branch of the Dogwood-now Granny’s clothesline is attached to it. As the years went by-me and Paul out grew the swing-but the sheltering branches of the twisted tree made the perfect place for us to while away the summer days.

Have you ever heard The Legend of the Dogwood before?



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  • Reply
    Emma J. Wisdom
    February 24, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I was introduced to the Legend of the Dogwood several years ago when I found a postcard at Walgreens Store here in Nashville. I bought a dozen and sent them to family and friends. Thanks for the reminder of a lovely story.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Dabrera
    July 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Hi there, thanks for lovely posts and for the refreshing music – truly enjoyed it, buddy !
    Kenneth Dabrera
    (from Sri Lanka)

  • Reply
    April 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    We have just a few dogwoods here at Vicktory Farm and Gardens, tucked in the cottonwood swamp. We are lucky that they all are fairly right outside the front of the house. Ours are blooming right on time this year in spite of our winter that was summer.

  • Reply
    Chef E
    April 28, 2010 at 8:14 am

    I had forgotten about that from church! Thanks for all my very own personal reminders of growing up!
    Like you do this for me he he

  • Reply
    April 26, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Oh yes, I have a pattern to cross stitch it. Just haven’t gotten time to start it yet.
    A dogwood is one of my favorite trees.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I love the Dogwoods too and have heard the legend all y life as well. There are some dogwoods around my woods and I always feel some attachment for them.
    My grandmother, from whom you got the legend loved the Dogwoods as well. Seems to me that all the old folks held a special feeling for the Dogwoods. I wish now that I had asked them why.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I have known of the legend since I was a little child and it is the reason the Dogwood is such a special tree to me! Great post!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    April 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

    The Dogwood is one of my favorite flowers because as it blooms the fish start biting.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    April 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I have heard the legend and have always loved it. One of my neighbors has a large dogwood that we have been enjoying this spring. It’s covered in blooms.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I heard it many years ago, but had forgotten it. thanks for the reminder. lovely photos of the flowers. wish i could see the hills alive with them now

  • Reply
    April 23, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    My house is surrounded by over 25 dogwood trees and I love them. I’ve heard the legend of the dogwood and it made me take a really good look at the blossoms. Such a beautiful story.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    April 23, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Yes, indeed, I grew up with that one. I suspect we were told it in Sunday School.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    April 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I love Dogwoods too! They tell this story to the children at church for the childrens sermon.

  • Reply
    April 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    No, I have never heard that story about the Dogwood. It’s sad but beautiful. I don’t have Dogwoods for any time I am in the market to buy a tree it is usually a fruit tree but maybe I will have to get at least one Dogwood now.
    Stacey SWPA

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    April 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    The Dogwood trees are the one thing that I miss the most not living in NC. We bought six trees years ago but only one lived. I was always told that you had to hae two trees to bloom. Our one tree has never had a bloom. I recently saw a pink one at a farm store. It was selling for $99. Just couldnt pay that much for one tree.
    I grew up hearing the ledgend of the Dogwood Tree. I have a postcared with it packed away . I got it as a child and kept it.
    Thanks for the pictures and memories.

  • Reply
    April 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Hi Tipper and thanks for the great posts. it’s friday afternoon, been a long week and I noticed your update email in my mail box. It was nice to drop in and hear some nice music and look at the flower pics. The dogwood is blooming here too – but only the ones down low, by the water. the higher up stuff will be a few more days. I loved your blogs about the violets – they have always been one of my favorites too. As a kid I used to pick a huge handful from my aunts woods and put them in a vase for my mother. One of the blooms I’m eagerly waiting for is the mountain laurel. Will you please post some pics when those in your area come into bloom? 🙂
    Best wishes and thanks again,

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    April 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I had heard the legend before, years ago I believe. The dogwood is my favorite tree and I look forward to each spring and it’s beauty.

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