DogwoodsDogwoods are one of my favorite trees... Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) in particular, as it is considered by many to be the most beautiful flowering tree in West Coast conifer forests. In the Sierra they grow between 3500 and 6000 feet in elevation on the western slope in well-watered areas. They are a slender-trunked tree that can reach heights of 40 feet. They have smooth ashy gray bark and leaves that are 3-5 inches long and oval in shape.
Dogwood flowers are actually quite small and inconspicuous. It's the 5 large white petal-like bracts that surround the cluster of small flowers that are beautiful and showy. Together the bracts and flowers can be called blossoms.
In the fall the flower clusters develop into bright red berries and the leaves turn peach to orange to red. The berries are quite bitter but some birds eat them. It has been suggested that the berries were called dog berries, dog being a term that means worthless. And thus the tree got the name of dogwood. There is one known use of the wood, though. Native Americans boiled the bark to make a laxative.
I believe the trees are far from worthless though. In my humble opinion there is nothing more beautiful than when they are contrasted against the rich red of a sequoia tree. I've tried to capture this image dozens of times, the perfect spray of dogwood blossoms in front of a sequoia tree. Thus far this image has eluded my camera, but I do intend to keep trying!