Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Digging Deeper: Dogwoods / Dagwoods / Whipple Trees

The dogwoods are blooming like crazy in our neck of the woods. Despite the passage of a recent cold front, this remains one of the loveliest times of the year (unless you suffer from allergies). It is also a good time to hunt for baby dogwoods in the woods, dig one up, and give it a new home in your yard.

I captured this one last week using a cell phone camera.
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. - Matthew 6:29
From Wikipedia,
"The name 'dog-tree' entered English vocabulary by 1548, and had been further transformed to 'dogwood' by 1614. Once the name dogwood was affixed to the tree, it soon acquired a secondary name as the Hound's Tree, while the fruits came to be known as dogberries or houndberries (the latter a name also for the berries of Black nightshade and alluding to Hecate's hounds). One theory advances that 'dogwood' was derived from dagwood, from the use of the slender stems of very hard wood for making 'dags' (daggers, skewers, arrows) .[Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Metheun & Co. Ltd., London.]"
It seems that if you scratch the surface of something beautiful, you sometimes turn up something painful, and sometimes that might be the handiwork of man.
"Another earlier name of the dogwood in English is the whipple-tree. Geoffrey Chaucer uses the word whippletree in The Canterbury Tales ('The Knight's Tale', verse 2065) to refer to the dogwood. A large item made of dogwood, the whippletree, still bears the name of the tree from which it is carved. A whippletree is an element of the traction of a horse-drawn cart, which links the drawpole of the cart to the harnesses of the horses in file."
Happy hunting!


  1. Dogwoods and redbuds are the first definitive signs of Spring. Alas, they're not in bloom here, yet, though they were all over the Arkansas mountains. It was good to see them, especially since we got five inches of snow here on Saturday.


  2. Remember the old saying "April showers bring May flowers?" Around here it is "February showers bring March flowers and April freezes kill the peaches."

  3. I thought it was "April showers bring May flowers...and May flowers bring Pilgrims."

  4. Came across our first flowering Dogwoods here in North Texas while on a hike the other day. I'd seen them once before while on a visit to North Carolina, but in all my years in the Dallas area (over 30 now) this was a first for me!

  5. Jill,

    The Go RV Texas pages give us another history for the dogwood.

    From On the Trail of White: Dance of the Dogwood,

    "An old and beautiful legend has it that, at the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood was comparable in size to the oak tree and other monarchs of the forest. Because of its firmness and strength it was selected as the timber for the cross, but to be put to such a cruel use greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Jesus in his gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all said: "Because of your sorrow and pity for My sufferings, never again will the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a gibbet. Henceforth it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will be in the form of a cross -- two long and two short petals. 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 this will remember."