By Isabella @TheWandCarver
Yes! We do have Dogwood trees in the UK! But many of you probably know this already. When I was quite young and my parents upped sticks and moved away from the big city life into the “country” – which isn’t so much “country” anymore – they bought a detached house on a good sized plot of land and my father, ever the Druid at heart, planted at least one, sometimes three or four, of every tree he could. And he certainly did plant Dogwood trees. As far as I can surmise, he planted Cornus Florida [from North America] based on the colour and size of the trees that I remember. But is another which lives happily
in UK weather called Cornus Kousa [from China] and it has pointier flowers. However, there is also a Dogwood [Cornus sanguinea] shrub which you mustn’t confuse with the American or Chinese tree because they are ornamentally placed around homes and businesses and the
Cornus sanguinea is typically found growing along woodland edges and in hedgerows of southern England. Mature trees can grow to 10 metres.
The Dogwood tree is said to live about 80 years under optimal circumstances. I don’t know if Dad’s trees still exist as he moved away from this house a few years after my Mum died. Truth be told, I haven’t been able to bring myself to go there again as I’m sure the changes may not please me. But if they please the current owners that is all that matters, I suppose. I’m not one to hang on to the past.
The writer Tess Whitehurst, in her book The Magic of Trees, likens the Dogwood to – well, a dog! She says the Dogwood gives you protection from what you wish to exclude and, like a dog, helps you determine whom and what should be excluded from your life. Rather than growling at someone or something as would a dog, the Dogwood wood gives you the feeling you should step away from the person or situation if you carry it as an amulet. It is said that a Dogwood tree is excellent protection if planted around your home. This is exactly what my father did… as a defence in front of our new home he planted three Dogwood trees… he clearly knew the power of three as we never had a time so bad we could not pull through it.
The origin of the name comes from the smooth, straight twigs [daggerwood] which were used to make butchers’ skewers. Skewers used to be called ‘dags’ or ‘dogs’, so the name means ‘skewer wood’. Tess Whitehurst in her book kind of got the meaning wrong way round as she says the name came from using the wood for knife handles. But the point is [see what I did there?] is that the Dogwood is thought to be as loyal as a dog and is said to help humans communicate with them. It is also believed that using pieces of Dogwood bark and its flowers in the kennel of a convalescing dog will ensure its health will mend rapidly. In the Victorian language of flowers, the Dogwood flower means endurance. Another good reason to plant one the lovely species of tree in your garden.
The tree’s name “Dogwood” also carries associations with the Celtic Irish hero Cuchulainn, whose name meant “the dog of Cuchulainn” referring to his loyalty. Uncertain about this as I have no way of knowing if the Dogwood existed in the early Pagan Celtic Ireland.
Sitting under a Dogwood, particularly if you’re feeling melancholy and having a good cry is thought to be very cathartic. It is believed that the Dogwood helps you to get your grief out more thoroughly.
Place the sap of the Dogwood onto a handkerchief on Midsummer Eve. This will grant any wish you have if you carry it faithfully. Dogwood leaves or wood can be placed in protective amulets.
Powers: Empathy, Love, Loyalty, Miracles, Protection, Secrets, Sympathy, Wishes
Deity: Saturn, Jesus, Venus, Hecate
Other Names: Dagwood, Bitter Redberry, Box Tree, Boxwood, Budwood, Cornejo Florido, Cornel, Cornelian Tree, Cornouiller Américain, Cornouiller d’Amérique, Cornouiller à Fleurs, Cornouiller à Fleurs d’Amérique, Cornouiller de Floride, Cornus, Cornus florida, Dog-Tree, Dogwood, False Box, Green Ozier, Osier, Rose Willow, Sanguiñuelo Florido, Silky Cornel, Swamp Dogwood.
Historically, American Dogwood was sometimes used for treating malaria instead of the drug quinine. American Dogwood is still used today as medicine, but not very often. People use American Dogwood for headaches, fatigue, fever, and ongoing diarrhoea. It is also used to increase strength, to stimulate appetite, and as a tonic. Some people apply American Dogwood directly to the skin for boils and wounds.
Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings to all whom this way wander x
The Magic of Trees, by Tess Whitehurst