Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dogwoods in bloom

We were really lucky this morning-it only got down to 32 degrees for a low here, and it didn't stay there long. There was some patches of frost, but no hard freeze like we were afraid of. There shouldn't be much plant damage. It's amazing how just a few degree difference in temperature can make such a huge difference in a plant.

Spring always makes me really excited-so many things coming in to bloom. The dogwoods are lighting up the woods. It is neat how they always come into bloom at Easter, regardless of when it is. They somehow seem to know the right time to bloom.

Dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small tree native to the eastern U. S. and the upper part of Mexico, most often seen in the understory of larger trees like pines and oaks, but I also see them pop up in abandoned fields and other sunny places. The pretty red berries they have in the Winter are good food for birds, which is what spreads them around.

One thing that makes the dogwood interesting is that what most people think is the flower is actually a bract-a leaf-like part of the plant that covers the flower bud until it opens. On most plants, the bracts are small and green, but on dogwoods they are creamy white and the showiest part of the plant. The true flowers are the little yellow parts in the center of the white bracts.

Another neat thing about dogwoods is that the bracts get larger and more white the longer they have been open. And if you take a close look, each bract has a notch at the end, giving them a heart-shaped appearance. They also have a brownish-red blotch at each indention.

Next time you see a dogwood, take a close look at the "flowers" and see how each plant comes with a story.

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