Monday, March 11, 2019

The Dogwood Tree and Easter

Legends of the Dogwood Tree
Late winter and early spring in East Texas means the Dogwood tree will bloom and color the landscape with its white or pink blooms. I have always loved this tree, but never had any success trying to grow one here in Houston.

The trees are beautiful along the sides of the highway running from Houston up through Woodville and Jasper, Texas where my aunt and uncle lived at one

I discovered that many legends about the Dogwood abound where the tree blooms. From ancient times to the Indians to modern days, legends may be religious or cultural.

Some of the legends concern the name, others the shape of the flower, size of the tree, and another one the “little people” the trees sheltered.

One of the funniest stories comes from an Old English version of how the tree got its name. The wood of the tree became very dense and hard as a rock when it dried. The limbs were used to make “dogs” or “doggerwood” meaning “a stick used to skewer meat.” Another version had the English using the sticks of wood to cure the mange by washing their dogs with the stick.

The Cherokee people believed that a divine race of little people lived among the trees sent to teach people how to live in harmony and at peace with the woods. These were “Dogwood People” and were very kind as protectors of babies and older, infirm people. The English word that came to be used for the people is Brownie.

Two religious legends have been passed down through the years. The first one says that Satan learned that the Dogwood was Adam’s favorite tree, so Satan climbed up a locust tree to sneak into the Garden of Eden and destroy the tree. However, his attempts were foiled by the cross-shaped four petal flower, and he was able only to take a bite from each petal. Supposedly this little intrusion left the tree forever with petals looking like a bite had been taken from them. The locust tree was also cursed with thorns so it could no longer be used for devious purposes.

Despite all these tales, one unknown person penned a poem around Easter time that tells an entirely different story and is my favorite.

It is said that Jesus had a love for the Dogwood tree that grew to be as large as the oak trees we know today. The trunk grew strong and firm as the English people described. Because of its strength and stability, the legend says a Dogwood tree was used to fashion the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Because it was used for such a cruel purpose, the tree was deeply saddened. However, Jesus, with His gentle love for everything, told the tree that because of its great sorrow, it would never again grow large enough to be used for such a purpose. Therefore, it would be slender with twisted trunks and branches and the four petals would represent the cross with special coloring on each one to denote the blood of Jesus and the center of the flower to represent the crown of thorns. 

The problem with this beautiful story is that the tree is native to North America and didn't grow in Israel in Jesus' time. No matter, the legend is loved, and the flowers are beautiful.

As the tree blooms in the spring, leaves are scarce but the flowers are profuse. They fill the countryside with their beauty, and because of the poem, people are reminded of the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made on the cross that day.

The tree to the right is on the road to Jasper in East Texas. Below is a closer view of the pink variety of the Dogwood tree.

Copies of the poem can be found all over today. Commemorative plates,
plaques, decorative handwork in watercolors and needle work, crosses, jewelry and even tattoos can be found bearing the design of the dogwood blossom. 

No matter what can be proved or disproved, the beautiful blossoms on the tree are a reminder for all of us during the season of Easter.

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.


  1. The dogwood is certainly beautiful. Thank you for sharing the myths and lore.

    1. I love reading about myths and legends even though they may not be true. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I loved your post, Martha! Dogwoods are so pretty. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you for sharing these legends. I love the dogwood trees.

    1. I love them, too. Legends are fun even if they're not true. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. The trees really make the drive up to Jasper pretty in the early days of spring. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I enjoy seeing Dogwood trees in bloom. Thank you for sharing the legend.

  5. Dogwood trees are beautiful. Pink one and white ones. The blossoms remind me of home. I was born in Virginia and we lived there until moving to SC in 2017.