Across the Midwest, the dogwood is in bloom this Easter. Along the highways, the white flowers glisten in the sun. In St. Louis, where I live, my street is alive with brightness. Years and years ago I planted a pencil-sized Arbor Day dogwood tree. It had grown two stories high, covered in white flowers each spring and red berries each fall, food for the mockingbird family that nests there each spring and flies away in the fall.
The dogwood flower is about two inches across, with four petals. At least five flowers bud on each small twiggish branch. The petals have a striped texture, like woven cloth. Those ridges reflect light, which is what makes the trees glow.
Legend has it dogwood was the wood of the cross. The tree as we know it is delicate, almost a shrub in its branching patterns. Legend tells that the tree diminished in size out of sorrow for having been used to crucify Jesus.
Its petals too, withered at each tip, are said to represent the wounds of nails on Jesus' hands and feet, the center stamens remind us of the crown of thorns, and its berries are blood red.
Nonetheless, it is an Easter tree, brilliant white and profuse in its flowers -- or else hybridized and very pretty pink. Happy Easter.