Long before we Americans got to this continent, the Eastern dogwood (Cornus florida) was here, blooming every spring at woodland edges all over the eastern half of the United States. Descendants of those native dogwoods still put on a springtime show in yards, parks and even in our remaining forests. There have been threats over the centuries--from farmers clearing land for crops in the early days to suburban developments and the anthracnose fungus more recently--but the dogwoods soldier on.
When the average person sees a dogwood "flower", he or she is actually seeing four bracts or colored leaves, surrounding a center, which contains the actual flowers. It really doesn't matter whether you say "bracts" or "petals"--they are always beautiful. Fortunately for all of us, the Eastern dogwood has had some help from plant breeders, who have bred strains that are not only more resistant to anthracnose, but s