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What Is the State Flower of North Carolina? Facts, History, & Characteristics

flowering dogwood trees

Whether you aree from the mountains, Piedmont, or Coastal Plains of North Carolina, you’ve probably seen the state flower. Although it’s considered a state tree rather than a flower in other states, the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is North Carolina’s state flower. Cornus florida is native to the state, and it’s joined by three other native dogwood species: the roughleaf dogwood (Cornus asperifolia), gray dogwood (Cornus racemose), and alternate-leaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). In April, tourists from around the globe visit the Tar Heel State to witness the pink and white blooms of the gorgeous dogwood trees.

Before the state legislature declared the flowering dogwood as the state flower in 1941, the lawmakers had unsuccessfully attempted to crown the flame azalea as the top flower. North Carolina citizens became frustrated that the government had not made a decision, and several began sending angry letters to the press demanding that the dogwood should be the state flower due to its prevalence in the state. The lawmakers eventually gave in, and in 1969, North Carolina held its first dogwood festival in Statesville.

garden flower divider

Characteristics of North Carolina’s State Flower

The flowering dogwood is native to the eastern United States and Mexico. It signals the early start of Spring when its vibrant pink or white flowers bloom in early April. The tree grows 20­–40 feet tall and thrives in partially-shady conditions. Dogwoods are abundant in suburban backyards and along North Carolina’s highways, but the trees’ natural habitat is typically around riverbanks, thickets, and deciduous forests.

Although the tree’s brilliant floral display is its primary appeal, the bright red fruit attracts wildlife and several species of birds.  The dogwood’s hard wood is also cultivated for making pulleys, spools, jeweler’s blocks, mallet heads, and weaving shuttles. It’s invaluable to weavers and craftsmen because the wood is shock resistant and relatively easy to work with.

flowering dogwood tree
Photo Credit By: Piqsels

Festivals Celebrating the Dogwood

North Carolinians undoubtedly love dogwoods; they hold dogwood festivals every year in five cities. Twenty-eight years after N.C. lawmakers made the dogwood the state flower, Statesville held its first festival.

Statesville Carolina Dogwood Festival

The Statesville Carolina Dogwood Festival was initially developed to promote high school bands. The city’s director of the Statesville High School Grenadier Band joined local business owners in promoting a band contest that allowed entries from other states. The festival sometimes lasts a week or more, and some of the events include an auto show, golf tournament, parade, beauty pageant, and softball tournament.

Fayetteville Dogwood Festival

In 1982, Fayetteville’s mayor, Bill Hurley, boldly stated that Fayetteville was “The City of Dogwoods.” Interest in the flowering tree had increased since the city had instituted a dogwood planting program, and the program’s success convinced city officials to hold a 10-day festival. Every year, close to 100,000 people visit the festival, which includes more than 35 events. A golf tournament, chili cook-off, rodeo, parade, 10-K run, and a fashion show are only a few of the activities that attendees enjoy. The highlight of the festival is the Dogwood Trail: 18 miles of Victorina, Federal, and Greek Revival architecture adorned with flowering dogwoods.

Kousa dogwood
Photo Credit By: Pixabay

Farmville Dogwood Festival

Farmville is not a large town, but its Dogwood Festival draws the 2nd largest crowd. Over 40,000 people visit the historic town each April to hear 40 bands perform practically every genre of music. Most of the concerts are performed at the town common, but attendees can also enjoy a Civil War reenactment, petting zoo, car shows, celebrity storytelling, and arts and crafts shows.

Mebane Dogwood Festival

In 1989, Mebane held its first Dogwood Festival, and each year, 10,000–15,000 people visit the town to celebrate the flowering dogwoods. Events include a golf tournament, musical acts, arts and crafts projects, and southern cooking from food trucks.

Pacific Dogwood
Image Credit: John Yunker, Shutterstock

Lake Lure Dogwood Festival

Gorgeous Lake Lure held its first festival in 1991. Although it has fewer attendees than other festivals, visitors are treated to spectacular views of flowering dogwoods on the mountainside reflected on the lake below. The town holds a parade to open the festival and also has concerts, food vendors, crafts shows, and even free health screenings.

Interesting Facts About the Flowering Dogwood

The dogwood is a valuable and beloved species in North Carolina, but it’s also appreciated by the state’s northern neighbor, Virginia. In Virginia, the flowering dogwood is the state tree and the state flower. Here are a few other fun facts about North Carolina’s state flower:

  • Clinton, North Carolina, has the largest dogwood in the state. The 31-foot tree has branches that span 48 feet.
  • Over $70 million is spent on dogwood purchases every year in the United States.
  • North Carolina State University professor, Dr. Tom Ranney, patented a special dogwood variety he named the Bob Timberlake Eternal Dogwood.
  • The tree’s name is explained by the myth that the bark of the tree was boiled down to treat dogs suffering from mange.
  • The first mention of the flowering dogwood, according to Merriam-Webster, was in 1617.
  • In 1917, National Geographic Magazine printed an article that claimed the daisy was North Carolina’s state flower. The flower was popular in the state but was not officially declared the state flower.
  • The flowering dogwood had intense competition from other species to become the state flower. Other candidates included the daisy, Venus flytrap, goldenrod, pinecone, and flame azalea.

garden flower divider

Final Thoughts

Unlike Virginia, which has the dogwood as the state flower and tree, North Carolina only chose the flowering dogwood as the state flower; North Carolina’s state tree is the pine. The colorful floral display in the spring, red fruit that feeds the wildlife, and beautiful crimson foliage in the fall make the flowering dogwood one of the state’s greatest natural attractions. If you’re anxious to experience a breathtaking view when winter ends, take a trip to North Carolina, when the flowering dogwoods are covered with bright pink and white flowers.

See Also: 15 Most Common Types of Butterflies in North Carolina

Featured Image Credit: Dariush M, Shutterstock


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