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Virginia’s favorite tree

Considered by many people to be the loveliest of the spring-flowering trees, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is the state tree and flower of Virginia. Cornus florida is native to eastern and south-central North America and northeastern Mexico. C. florida grows naturally in dappled shade beneath larger trees in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9, but it will tolerate morning sun with afternoon shade and sufficient irrigation.

Flowering dogwood is a flat-topped tree with horizontal upper and drooping lower branches. The oval, dark green leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and silvery-green on the underside. In autumn, the leaves turn striking shades of red and burgundy.

The lovely white “blossoms” that greet us every spring are modified leaves called bracts. Bract color ranges from greenish-white to pink to red, depending on the cultivar. Four bracts surround the true flower, a tight cluster of yellowish-green buttons. Butterflies sip the nectar, and several species of mining Andrena bees gath...

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