The state tree of Missouri is Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood, which is also the state tree of Virginia. The tree is prized in the home landscape for its beautiful white flowers, which botanists say aren’t really flowers at all, but the bracts that surround the dogwood’s actual small yellow flowers. The state tree of Missouri flowers in spring, and in autumn its leaves turn red, along with a show of red berries. The flowering dogwood does not usually grow to a height of more than 30 feet (9.14 meters), but under ideal conditions it has been known to grow to 40 feet (12.19 meters).
The flowering dogwood was adopted as the state tree of Missouri in 1955. The strong wood is capable of withstanding great stress, and it is used to make products that must take a beating, such as the heads of golf clubs, the runners on sleds and the handles of mallets. The wood of the dogwood also is used to make wedges, knitting needles, pulleys and weavers’ shuttles. In fact, shuttle manufacturers used almost all of the dogwood that was harvested in the 1800s. Other uses for the dogwood during the 1800s included artificial teeth and special sticks called chewing sticks that were made to rub against teeth as a cleaning method.
Native Americans also made use of the wood in their medicines and in everyday life. Their medicinal uses included a concoction made from the bark to fight fevers, and they shared this remedy with pioneers. Native Americans also used the dogwood to treat colic and chills, and another concoction protected the gums. Doctors during the Civil War, unable to obtain the preferred type of tree bark used to make quinine, a malaria treatment, turned to a dogwood treatment and achieved success.
One theory concerning the origin of the name "dogwood" is rooted in dog care, but the theory is unconfirmed: At one time dogs with mange were bathed with a liquid made from the tree’s bark to cure the affliction. Other dog-related names for the tree include hound's tree, dogberry tree and hound's berry. Popular names for the state tree of Missouri are green osier and flowering cornel.