Medford Tree of the Week – Flowering Dogwood
Flowering dogwood (‘Cornus florida’), a tree native to the US from southern Maine to northern Florida, has been described as the “aristocrat of native flowering trees”. Flowering dogwoods have an elegance, nobility and architectural beauty about them, providing year-round interest and attraction. This is a tree that checks off all the boxes in regard to excellence in flowers, foliage, fruit, bark and growth habit.
True flowers of dogwoods are actually tiny little things, about ¼” across, greenish, in tight clusters. Those small flowers are surrounded by petal-like structures called bracts. The bracts start out as protective covers for the flowers, but then emerge to become dramatic four petal-like “flowers”, with notched tips. The resulting flower clusters are bright white to pink to deep red, sometimes emerging as white then turning to pink and red colors. Flower clusters emerge before the leaves and appear to “float” in layers along the horizontal branches, with dramatic effect.
A dogwood tree in flower looks especially elegant as a single tree, as an accent to a patio or garden, near houses or buildings, and absolutely gorgeous in groupings in parks or other large planting areas.
Leaves (foliage) of dogwood are usually a handsome green in summer, changing to red or purplish red in fall. Fruits are very pretty, small, glossy red, but don’t linger long into winter because they are a favorite snack for birds. Bark of dogwoods becomes scale-like with age, in rectangular blocks, that has been described as looking like an alligator’s back. The bark and structure of dogwoods are exceptionally beautiful in winter.
A fascinating historical nugget about dogwoods is their role in the American Industrial Revolution, particularly here in Massachusetts. In the 1870’s, textile mills, which processed plant materials into cloth, grew up in places like Lowell, MA. Those mills were built and became hugely successful with new technology developed at that time, about 150 years ago. Still, the machinery at the mills depended upon a very simple wooden device called a “shuttle”, which basically shot yarn or threads across machinery that wove cloth. Turned out that the wood of dogwood trees, being hard, heavy, resistant to abrasion, not prone to splintering and actually getting smoother with use, was the best choice for material as shuttles. Dogwood was essential in the success of American textile mills, and became a huge and profitable export to mills in Germany, France and the UK. With the onset of World War II, farmers and owners of wood lots were asked to cease exporting all dogwood lumber so it could be made into shuttles for the mills to help support production of military clothing and war-related textiles.
The dogwood in the photo is a pink variety and is growing happily at the edge of Wrights Pond.
Medford Celebrates Trees on Arbor Day
Arbor Day is a special holiday set aside for planting and caring for trees. Medford joined communities across the nation and around the world to celebrate Arbor Day on April 28, 2017.
The first officially declared Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872. Settlers in Nebraska missed trees, but also needed trees as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for fuel and building materials and to provide shade from the hot sun in summer. It is estimated that one million trees were planted in Nebraska on that first Arbor Day 145 years ago, many by schoolchildren. Thousands of people followed up the tree plantings with a huge parade and a grand public celebration complete with speeches and song.
Arbor Day events continue to today. This year, Medford’s celebration focused along Spring Street, a highly travelled residential street where many trees have been lost due to age and attrition. With Mayor Burke’s support, locations along Spring St where trees will be most able to grow and thrive were identified by Tree Warden Aggie Tuden. Homeowners at those locations were invited to welcome a new tree planting. Thirteen homeowners enthusiastically accepted, and many helped make final choices on selections of tree species planted. Elms, red maples, tupelos, honeylocust, pear and cherry were among species selected.
Part two of Arbor Day was the rejuvenation of existing valuable shade trees along Spring St. Prior to the event, Medford’s Forestry crew remove four failed trees. On Arbor Day itself, Forestry teamed up with the very talented crew of tree workers from Lawns Plus, and together they pruned dozens of existing, valuable shade trees along Spring St. Tree work accomplished improved appearance, increased health and extended longevity of sidewalk trees along Spring St.
Part three of Arbor Day was a very joyful tree planting event held in the island on Governors Ave near High St. Children and staff from the Medford Public Library, young members and leaders of two Girl and Boy Scout troops, representatives of the Medford Historical Society, plus enthusiastic residents and supporters joined with Mayor Burke for the symbolic finish to the planting of a new young Dawn Redwood tree. Mayor Burke read Medford’s official Arbor Day Proclamation to the crowd, and tree seedlings were distributed to participants to bring home for their own Arbor Day plantings.
Medford’s Arbor Day 2017 was once again a great celebration of trees and community. Special thanks and recognition are extended to arborist Bill Bernardinelli, owner of Lawns Plus, which has generously donated a “Day of Service” as a member of the esteemed Mass Arborists Association, to the City of Medford, on Arbor Day, for seven consecutive years. Thank you to Kelly’s Roast Beef at Wellington Circle for providing generous support and donation of a beautiful assortment of lunches and beverages for the workers for the second consecutive year on Arbor Day. Mayor Burke hosted the lunch for the workers at the pavilion at newly renovated McNally Park.
As Mayor Burke proclaimed in reading Medford’s official declaration, “I urge all citizens to celebrate Arbor Day, to support efforts to protect our trees and woodlands, and to plant trees to gladden the heart and promote the well-being of this and future generations.”
Submitted by Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden