Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Flowering Dogwood, CORNUS FLORIDA

from the the March 30, 2009 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Redbuds faded last week but the Flowering Dogwoods, CORNUS FLORIDA, reached their peak this week -- just in time to be battered by nightly storms, sometimes with hail. You can see some dogwood "flowers" above.

The word "flowers" sets within quotation marks because the pretty, white things in the above picture are CLUSTERS of flowers, not flowers themselves. Each cluster's four or five "petals" aren't petals, but rather bracts, or leaves modified to look like petals. The actual dogwood flowers are the BB-size objects clustered in the white-objects' centers, shown below.

Flowering Dogwoods, CORNUS FLORIDA, flowers

There you can pick out the actual corollas, which are yellowish with four curved-back lobes. Between each pair of lobes a male stamen arises. In the picture, behind the two open, yellow flowers, other flowers already have been pollinated and have lost their corollas, leaving only green, stigma-topped, stick- like styles rising from female ovaries situated below their green, crown-like calyxes, each calyx with four blunt sepals. Later the ovaries will develop into the red fruits that will adorn branches so prettily next winter. You'll remember that a dogwood's fruits are clustered, and that's because at this time of year the flowers are clustered as shown in the picture.