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Dogwoods are the commonly known name for Cornus, which has about thirty to sixty different woody plant species. Dogwoods are part of the Cornaceae family. Dogwoods are recognized by their blossoms and berries, as well as their distinctive bark. Most dogwoods are seasonal trees and shrubs that usually lose their leaves during autumn. Some dogwoods have small bunches of flowers that are not very visible and are surrounded by white petal-like leaves. Other species have open clusters of flowers with lots of petals. These trees or shrubs are commonly found in more temperate and boreal Eurasia and North America and even more commonly found in China, Japan, and the southeastern United States.
Dogwood flowers typically have four separate parts. In many species, they are in open clusters, but some species are in more tight clusters, not showing very many petals, but instead are surrounded by four to six large, white petal-like leaves. The fruit that all dogwood species produce is more fleshy, typically brighter colors, covering one or two seeds. Some fruits are edible, but some are sweet with hard pits, while others are sweet with a somewhat tart flavor. These fruits have been used as food and as medicine to fight various colds and flu. Some species are also mildly toxic to people though birds usually eat them. They contain little Vitamin C. Dogwoods are also used as food for butterflies and moths.
Dogwoods are typically seen in every part of the U.S. except those with hot and dry areas. In England, a particular species called Cornus Florida does not blossom without cold winters and hot summers. Many of the species in subgenus Swida grow horizontally along waterways and wet habitats. They are used along highways and establish landscape plantings, particularly in the winter months, and tend to have more bright red or yellow stems.
The wood of the dogwoods is dense and fine-grained and is used to make loom shuttles, handles for tools, roller skates, and smaller items that require a more robust and more complex wood. Although the wood is very tough for woodworking, it tends to be used for smaller projects such as walking canes, arrows and sometimes used in the heads of wooden golf clubs. Dogwood lumber is rare and not easily accessible to any manufacturer and has to be cut down by those who want to use it.