Dogwood has been beneficial in the past as a dye and as a substitute for quinine and tea made from the bark was applied to treat pain or fever for generations. The name dogwood comes from Dagwood, as the dense hardwood from the stems was used for daggers, arrows and tool handles. Whippletree, an element of the traction of a horse-drawn cart, was also made from the wood and it explains why this earlier name for the tree features in The Canterbury Tales.
The showy part of the dogwood appears to be the four distinct petals of blossom, but actually, these are bracts, modified leaves. The tightly packed cluster in the centre form the real blooms. A Christian legend explains that the ‘flower’ owes its shape to the use of dogwood for the crucifixion of Jesus. To end the misuse of this tree for the construction of crosses, Jesus shortened it and twisted its branches. He transformed its inflorescence into a representation of the cross with four petal-like bracts, each bearing a mark as of a nail.
Natural (or ‘orient’) pearls, formed without human intervention, are rare. When a parasite enters the shell of a mollusc, the irritated mollusc covers the intruder with nacre, mother of pearl; which is the same material it uses to line its shell. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl.