Dogwood Tree: Meaning, Symbolism, and Significance

Written by Ryan Fisher
Updated: September 15, 2023
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Abundantly found across the globe, dogwood trees are some of the most beloved and well-known landscaping trees. On top of their gorgeously vibrant foliage, people adore them for their delicate flowers that almost seem manufactured. They are so popular in fact that they are commonly used in both outdoor landscaping and more artistic feats such as bonsai gardening

In addition to their beauty and intrigue, dogwoods are also easy to cultivate and extremely diverse. This is just another characteristic that makes them attractive to home gardeners. There is always a dogwood tree to match the aesthetic and planting needs of your specific garden! 

With their longstanding usage and cultivation, they have accumulated a variety of symbolic meanings over the years. Let’s take a look at some of the most common meanings associated with the dogwood, as well as some more meaningful correlations that the dogwood has gained throughout history. 

What Do Dogwood Trees Symbolize? 

Blue sky and dogwood in full bloom

Dogwood symbolism has been connected to many diverse societies such as the U.K., the Americas, China, Scotland, and even ancient Greece!

©atonom/iStock via Getty Images

As mentioned earlier, dogwood trees have a plethora of symbolic meanings. Many have been attached to them by different cultural groups. While each symbol may have its unique attributions, a lot of the symbolism for dogwood has been relatively similar across time and space. 

Rebirth and Renewal 

One main symbolic meaning attached to dogwood trees is the idea of rebirth and renewal. Biologically, dogwoods are some of the first trees that bloom in the spring. In other words, they are some of the first signs of spring, which is a time of growth, renewal, and symbolic rebirth. 

When paired with their vibrant and eye-catching foliage, it is no wonder why people correlate the dogwood’s bloom with renewal and regeneration. 


Similarly, the early-blooming tendencies of the dogwood is a trait that also inspires hope and aspiration in many. Throughout history, winter has been one of the hardest seasons to tough it through. This is especially true for those living in unforgiving climates that have devastatingly cold temperatures. 

With this in mind, people would commonly associate the blooming of dogwood trees with the onset of spring. This eventually made dogwood blooms a symbol of hope, as they let people know that spring was shortly on its way! 

Purity and Innocence 

The dogwood tree also has a lot of religious ties, each with its slew of shared and unique symbols. One religious idea that is commonly connected to them is purity and innocence. There are a few different traits that can be connected to purity and innocence. 

One common quality that sparks this idea is the pristine white blooms that the tree produces. Dogwood blooms are incredibly dainty and structured, which almost makes them look perfectly untouched. It is this trait which has been attributed to the idea of purity, 

Love and Passion

flowering dogwood

Dogwood symbolism isn’t confined to the tree itself. In fact, flower color plays a huge role in the trees’ symbolism.


In contrast to the typical white flowers, some dogwoods grow mottled red petals that are also stunning. With these types of gorgeous petals, the red-blooming dogwoods are likened to the ideas of love and passion. This may seem like a stark contrast, but the difference lies solely within the symbolism of color. 

Similar to how we decorate with red and pink around Valentine’s Day, the red blooms of certain dogwoods represent those warm and fuzzy feelings! 

Other Color Meanings

In addition to the white and red color variants, some dogwoods produce gorgeous pink or orange blooms. Orange-blooming variants commonly represent energy, especially the introduction of new and fresh energy into someone’s life. It is thought that both the color and the quick-blooming quality of the tree are why orange blooms signify energy. 

Furthermore, dogwoods that produce pink blooms often symbolize femininity. The pink blooms follow a historical pattern of color symbolism that is deeply rooted within our society. 

Origins of The Dogwood’s Cultural Significance 

dogwood in full bloom

Certain religions such as Christianity have a lot of specific ties to dogwoods. This is due to religious scripture and iconography.


On top of these widespread symbols, there are also a lot of specific connections that various cultural groups have made to the dogwood tree. Let’s take a peek at some of the most conspicuous cultural connections to dogwood trees. 

Dogwood Trees in Christianity

One huge cultural connection that dogwoods have is to the Christian faith. Firstly, it is said that the lumber used to build the cross that Jesus was crucified on was from a dogwood tree. According to the faith, it is also said that Jesus proclaimed after his death that no dogwood tree would grow strong or tall so that it would not be used in the name of violent executions such as his. Due to this biblical story, dogwoods have been connected to benevolence and faith. 

Additionally, Christians also note that dogwood flowers typically consist of two short petals and two long petals, which some claim is a direct resemblance to the cross. 

Through these liturgical origins, the dogwood has become a strong symbol of hope, resilience, and faith within the Christian community. Some followers get dogwood tree tattoos as a symbol of devotion and resilience through hard times. 

One last connection that the dogwood has is about the Easter holiday. With the ideas of faith, its early bloom, and the crucifixion, it quickly was adapted to be an Easter icon! 

Dogwood Trees as a Sign of Victorian Love 

Dogwoods were also very popular trees during the Victorian Era when they took on the meaning of young love. During this time, young suitors would gift dogwood flowers to single women who they were interested in. It was said that the presentation of these flowers was a transactional conversation that was supposed to signify a formal romantic interest. 

After the young lady received the flowers, she would respond in one of two ways: keeping them or returning them. If she were to return them, it was a sign that she was respectfully not interested in the young man. Likewise, if she were to keep them, it was a telltale sign that she shared similar romantic feelings. 

Dogwoods were already a strong symbol of love and femininity during this time, which is why they were used in this type of social interaction. This is especially true for the red and pink color variants of the blooming tree, which had additional correlations to passion and love. 

It was also during this time that our modern ideas connected to dogwood trees likely arose. Customs such as communicating and courting relationships with flowers were very popular during the time. In fact, there still are remnants of these traditions in our society today. For instance, people often receive and give flowers on occasions that are associated with love, such as weddings, formal dances, and even Valentine’s Day! 

Dogwood Trees in Greek Mythology

One last cultural tie that is connected to dogwood trees lies within one of the most classical societies in history: Greece. Specifically, the dogwood tree had a special place in the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses. It was said that Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, dogs, and magic (among other things) was also connected to dogwood trees. 

In her most popular depictions, Hecate was shown to be carrying a special type of dagger, which was commonly made from lumber like the dogwood. As this depiction became more popular, people began to simply attribute the tree itself to her image. 

Additionally, Hecate was also a patron of canine companions. People saw similarities to the word “dog” which appears in “dogwood” and connected it to Hecate. 

It is due to quirky correlations such as these that a tree so common is connected to so many fascinating cultures throughout history!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © F_studio/

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About the Author

Ryan Fisher studies biology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. His scientific interests are diverse, revolving around plants, animals, and fungi alike. In the future, he is planning on studying more botanical sciences, however he is extremely well-versed in select fields of zoology, such as entomology (the study of insects) and ornithology (the study of birds).

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