Dogwood - Encyclopedia

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DOGWOOD (i.e. wood of the dog-tree; referred by the New English Dictionary to "dog," apparently as indicating inferiority; but by others connected with "dag," "dagger," and by Prior with A.S. dolt, a brooch-pin), the name applied to plants of the genus Cornus, of the natural order Cornaceae. The common dogwood, prick-wood, skewer-wood, cornel or dogberry, C. sanguinea, is a shrub reaching a height of 8 or 9 ft., common in hedges, thickets and plantations in Great Britain. Its branches are dark red; the leaves egg-shaped, pointed, about 2 in. long by i i broad, and turning red in autumn; the flowers are dull white, in terminal clusters. The berries are small, of a blackpurple, bitter and one-seeded, and contain a considerable percentage of oil, which in some places is employed for lamps, and in the manufacture of soap. The wood is white and very hard, and like that of other species of the genus is used for making ladderspokes, wheel-work, skewers, forks and other implements, and gunpowder charcoal. The red berries of the dwarf species, C. suecica, of the Scottish Highlands, are eaten, and are reputed to be tonic in properties. C. mas, the Cornelian cherry, a native of Europe and Northern Asia, bears a pulpy and edible fruit, which when unripe contains much tannin. It is a good garden plant, as is also the North American species C. florida, one of the commonest trees of the deciduous forests of the middle and southern states. Professor C. S. Sargent (Silva of North America) describes it as "one of the most beautiful of the small trees of the American forests, which it enlivens in early spring with the whiteness of its floral leaves and in autumn with the splendour of its foliage and the brilliancy of its fruit. No tree is more desirable in the garden or park in regions where the summer's sun is sufficiently hot to ensure the production of its flowers through the perfect development of the branchlets." The Jamaica dogwood, the root-bark of which is poisonous, is the species Piscidia Erythrina, of the natural order Leguminosae.

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