ORRIN MORRIS: Ancient tale says dogwood used to make cross for Jesus' crucifixion

The flowering dogwood, though it is not a wildflower, has been chosen for two reasons. First, the brownish-white buds are beginning to show red. Second, because we are observing the Lenten Season.

As the dogwoods bud slowly and systematically open, so too, is our spiritual journey to Easter slow and systematic.

The Gospel story tells us that it was early on the first day of the week (Sunday) that the Lord was resurrected. The power of God that brought Jesus back to life is the same power that gives His followers new life (new birth or the spiritual birth from above, John 3:16). The Resurrection and ascension of Jesus assures each follower of adoption into the heavenly family (John 1:12).

May the dogwood blossoms be a constant reminder to us of God's love and sacrifice for our redemption.FLOWERING DOGWOOD

Cornus floridaOur native dogwood sets its flower buds during the summer of the previous year. Each bud is encased by four tough scales called bracts. The buds are supported on a -inch stem (peduncle). As the following spring approaches the stem extends to about 1 inches and the four bracts begin to show red, then open and turn white.

The beautiful "petals," as pictured, are actually bracts. The flowers, or florets, are in the center, -inch in diameter, and are urn-shaped with four lobes and four stamens. Each dogwood "bloom" has from 10 to 30 florets.

At the outer edge of the bracts is the remnant of the bud attachment when it was in its scale form during fall and winter. This indention is often reddish-brown. Two of the opposite bracts are longer than the other two.

This shape and the markings has led someone in ancient times to create a novel story. The legend personifies the dogwood as the wood of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

As the dogwood reflected on the humiliation of the infamous deed, the legend says it rearranged its bloom to depict the event. It grew two bracts longer, representing the upright of the cross, and grew two bracts short to represent the crossbeam of the cross.

The reddish-brown discoloration on the extremities of the bracts was added so as to be a reminder of Jesus' blood that was shed. Finally, the dogwood determined that it would never again grow to great height and would rarely exceed 20 feet.

The flowering dogwood, native to the southeastern U.S., blooms in late March and early April, normally coinciding with the celebration of Easter.

May the floral display of dogwood this spring remind you of the Lenten season and the importance of the spiritual journey we make as God's children.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.