Dogwood (cornus, Linn.), small deciduous trees or shrubs of the order cornaceoe, natives of Europe, Asia, and North America, of which there are several species. C. alternifolia (Linn.), the alternate-leaved dogwood, is indigenous to North America, and is found in shady woods or by river banks in every latitude. It frequently attains a height of 15 to 20 ft. The leaves are alternate, ovate, and acute; flowers white, May to July; fruit dark blue, ripening in October. Of all the species of cornus, the flowering dogwood (C. florida, Linn.) is the most beautiful, and in its native soil under favorable circumstances attains a height of 30 to 35 ft. The specific name florida was bestowed because of the profusion of its flowers. Specific characters : branches shining; leaves ovate, acuminate, pale beneath ; flowers umbellate, protruded after the leaves; leaves of involucre large, roundish, retuse, white and very showy; drupes ovate and bright red. It is found as far northward as New Hampshire, but particularly abounds in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, where the soil is moist; in Florida and the Carolinas it is found only in swamps; in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, it is not found in the forests except where the soil is gravelly.
It was first described in Ray's Historia Plantarum (1686-1704), and afterward by Catesby in his "Natural History of Carolina." The wood is hard, finegrained, and susceptible of a high polish. It enters into the construction of many articles of ornament and utility, such as the handles of mallets, toys, harrow teeth, hames for horse collars, and the shoeing of sleds. The inner bark is very bitter, and has medicinal properties similar to Peruvian bark; the surgeons of the confederate army found it their best dependence in the absence of quinia. It is said to contain a principle, cornine, similar to quinia; the cornine used by the eclectics is a resinoid precipitate resulting from treating a strong tincture with water; it contains much tannic acid. The bark may be used instead of galls in the manufacture of ink; the Indians obtained a scarlet dye from the bark of the roots. The flowering dogwood is frequently cultivated as an ornamental tree, its large flowers, which rival the whiteness of snow, affording a pleasing contrast with the deep green of the surrounding foliage. - The name dogwood is improperly given in some parts of the United States to the rhus venenata, a species of poisonous sumach.
Altemate-leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia).
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).