Why a big strong tree wished to remain small, THE DOGWOOD (077)

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Long long ago the dogwood was a very big tree with a thick trunk. Its hard straight wood was highly favoured for building houses and boats. A dramatic event resulted in this big strong tree turning into a large bush. How this came about is told in this Christian legend.

One day about 2000 years ago a large dogwood growing on the top of the hill of Golgotha was deeply shocked. He witnessed how the wood from a family member was abused: it was  used to make the cross on which Jesus then died.

He was deeply ashamed, bowed his crown in humility and decided to stop growing. He mourned for days on end and then turned to God: “Help me, God,  to never ever allow our wood to be used again for something so dreadful. Wouldn’t it be better for me and my family members to remain small, so that we can never be abused again like this?” Because the dogwood was so stricken by remorse, God agreed to his request. From that day on dogwoods grow slowly and never reach any great height. They stop growing once they have reached the proportions of a small tree. But he remains strong: his wood is very hard. For his humility God gave him a gift. From that day on the dogwood is one of the first to blossom. On dark days as early as February his small yellow flowers are already shining through the bare winter thickets like bright stars. He flowers just before the blackthorn who was also abused to create Jesus’s crown of thorns. For his remorse the blackthorn was given shining white flowers which open to herald spring at the start of this season.

The cornelian cherry dogwood (Córnus mas) is a native to the whole of Middle and South East Europe. South Limburg is its northernmost limit, so that it remains a rarity in The Netherlands. It is included on the Red List (1) of endangered plants. In Flanders it is more common and is not listed as an endangered species. In The Netherlands the bush is often planted in parks and used as green vegetation bordering roads. Being one of the first to flower, this tall bush blooms in February. Its bare branches are flushed with yellow through the delicate small flowers. The nectar and the pollen form the first food for early bees and insects. Insemination by these insects is important for producing the bitter red berries which later on in the year are edible and rich in vitamin C.

  • The Red List is a list of seriously endangered plants and animals in The Netherlands. Special protective measures are taken for species named on this list.

© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl