The dogwoods bloomed early this year, about a month early. I just got back from a hike up in the
Mountain Home Grove where the dogwoods are just about at their peak and perhaps a little past.
Was it ever beautiful up there! There were lots of clouds rolling through up there at 6,000
feet... I love that, to just sit and watch the mist move in and pass and swirl around the giant
sequoias. Anyway, the dogwoods, wow, I've never seen so many blooms on them before! It's
definitely a great year for them.
Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) is considered by many to be the most beautiful flowering
tree in West Coast conifer forests. In the Sierra they grow between 3500 and 6000 feet in
elevation on the western slope in well-watered areas. They are a slender-trunked tree that
can reach heights of 40 feet. They have smooth ashy gray bark and leaves that are 3-5 inches
long and oval in shape.
Dogwood flowers are actually quite small and inconspicuous. It's the 5 large white petal-like
bracts that surround the cluster of small flowers that are beautiful and showy. Together the
bracts and flowers can be called blossoms.
In the fall the flower clusters develop into bright red berries. The berries are quite bitter
but some birds eat them. It has been suggested that the berries were called dog berries, dog
being a term that means worthless. And thus the tree got the name of dogwood. There is one
known use of the wood, though. Native Americans boiled the bark to make a laxative.
I believe the trees are far from worthless though. In my humble opinion there is nothing more
beautiful than when they are contrasted against the rich red of a sequoia tree. I've tried to
capture this image dozens of times, the perfect spray of dogwood blossoms in front of a
sequoia tree. Thus far this image has eluded my camera, but I do intend to keep trying!