Trees of Clear Lake Twp.
July 28, 2020
Article contributed by Don Luepke
Yep, gotcha! That was a sort of “Dad Joke.” We are referring to the Dogwood Tree. Actually there are many species in the Cornus (dogwood) family, but the native one on which we focus is the white or flowering dogwood Cornus florida. It is lower story tree meaning that it will grow to a maximum height of 15-25 feet. It will do best in an area of dappled shade meaning that taller shade trees provide protection from direct sun at least a portion of the day.
The flowering dogwood is a wondrous choice for each and every season and a favorite in many yards and gardens. The white “flowers” (actually bracts) display magnificent beauty in the spring, deep green leaves during summer, vibrant red-purple foliage in autumn, and glossy red fruits attract winter songbirds in the cold months.
The tree is quite versatile growing in conditions including loamy, rich, sandy, and well-drained clay soils. It definitely does prefer moist conditions and water is essential in maintaining a healthy specimen.
This beautiful ornamental tree also has significant wildlife value with the flowers, fruit, seed, as well as leaves, twigs and bark used for food by various animals. Over thirty species of birds including ruffed grouse and bobwhite quail eat its fruit along with a potpourri of small mammals. Early Native Americans created medicinal teas from ground bark or leaves which are rich in tannins and used to treat pain, fevers, backaches, dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, uterine bleeding, and incontinence.
The wood is is very dense and hard and used to make handles for various carpentry tools, weaver's shuttles, and even heads for golf clubs. A legend about this native tree which can be found by searching the Internet for “Legend of the Dogwood Tree.”
There are a number of flowering dogwoods that are naturally growing in Brennan Woods of our own Clear Lake Nature Preserve. This harbinger of spring is truly a tree of wondrous beauty and how grand it would be to see it planted in many yards and gardens in Clear Lake Township as a gift to the many generations that follow. If you are looking for a extraordinary addition to your landscape the Cornus florida is most worthy of consideration.