Legend of the dogwood tree:
True or false?
Quick-read this article:
There is a beautiful story about the dogwood tree being the wood
used for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The story, generally told
at Easter when the dogwoods flower, adds that Christ caused the
flowers of the dogwood to be a reminder of the cross on which He
died. He allegedly did this by giving the flower two long and two
short petals, and to have what look like nail prints on the petals
to remind us that Christ suffered on the cross with nails through
His hands. The story is quite remarkable, but unfortunately the
legend is not true.
THERE is a
commonly told story that the dogwood tree was chosen as the wood
for the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
The 3-verse story goes like this:
The Legend of the Dogwood
“When Christ was on earth, the dogwood grew
To a towering size with a lovely hue.
Its branches were strong and interwoven,
And for Christ's cross its timbers were chosen.
“Being distressed at the use of the wood,
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
'Never again shall the dogwood grow
To be large enough for a tree, and so,
Slender and twisted it shall always be,
With cross-shaped blossoms for all to see.
“'The petals shall have
bloodstains marked brown,
And in the blossom's center a thorny crown.
All who see it will think of me,
Nailed to a cross from a dogwood tree.
Protected and cherished this tree shall be,
A reflection to all of my agony.'”
The pink dogwood is said to represent the blushing of shame for
shedding innocent blood. The weeping dogwood represents a heartfelt
cry over this tree's being used to crucify Christ.
Reminders of God
God has placed many reminders on earth that should
cause us to glorify Him for His wonderful greatness, mercy, and
love. Dogwood flowers can do just that.
But we should keep in mind that there is nothing in the Bible
about Christ being crucified on a dogwood tree. There is not even
any mention of dogwoods in the Bible, even though the word was in
use at the time the King James Version was produced in
And there is no reputable record anywhere that Christ cursed the
tree from which the cross was made to cause it to shrink forever
after, or that He changed the appearance of the flowers to remind
us of His death on the cross.
In fact, the only records we have of anything Jesus Christ ever
said are in the Bible. The only tree the Bible records Him as
cursing (for want of a better word) was the fig tree in
His illustration of the importance of faith (Matthew 21:18-22). And
that was a single tree that had no fruit — it did not affect
the whole species or genus of fig trees down through the ages
worldwide, as the dogwood story does.
Consider also that Christ knew He would die on the cross to pay
for the sins of mankind and was willing to do this. Why then would
He be “distressed at the use of the wood”? That doesn't
We spoke to a guide at a large city botanic gardens, who told us
that guides often repeat or embellish stories about plants in the
gardens to make the visit more memorable for visitors. Legends
sell. Many plants have stories associated with them, but reliable
information on the origin of the stories is hard to find. People
repeat them without checking their accuracy.
The dogwood legend almost certainly originated in North America
— it fits the flowering time, the language, and the American
We could find no reference to the dogwood legend before the 20th
century. It appeared in The Victoria Advocate newspaper on
Sunday April 18, 1954 (page 3B), and obviously had a history before
this, but we could find no ancient records of it.
Dogwoods don't grow in Israel
To further check an essential detail of this story, we contacted
the Information Center at the Ministry of Tourism in Israel to find
out whether dogwoods actually grow in Jerusalem, Israel, or the
“No, the dogwood doesn't grow naturally in or near Israel.
It is native to Europe, eastern Asia, and North America
Gospel in the flowers?
Certainly some of the ingredients of the dogwood story can be
used to remiind us of Christ's death on the cross: The petals in a
shape of a cross, the centre as the crown of thorns, and the holes
at the petals' edges can remind us of the nail prints in Christ's
But we should never attribute the words or the curse to Christ
when the evidence for this does not exist.
Photo credits: Dogwood trunk photo by Derek Ramsey
is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution
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ShareAlike 1.0 licenses. Dogwood pink flower photo by Mike
James is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0