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Although it is a tree, the flowering dogwood is the state flower of Virginia. Known scientifically as Cornus florida, this large flowering tree can be found throughout the eastern United States. It was adopted as the state flower in 1918. In 1956, it also become the state tree of Virginia.
Cornus florida is more commonly known as the flowering dogwood or American dogwood. It is abundant in the eastern half of the United States. It can be found as far north as Maine and as far south as Florida. Moving westward, it can be found in parts of Texas and Illinois. A subspecies of this flowering tree, Cornus florida urbiniana, can also be found in a few areas of eastern Mexico.
The individual flowers of the flowering dogwood are rather inconspicuous. They are yellowish green and very small. Typically, they are clustered into groups of about 20. These clusters are surrounded by special leaves, known as bracts.
There are usually four bracts surrounding American dogwood flower clusters. Usually, they are bright white and they can grow to be up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. The tips of these bracts have clefts. Bracts surrounding the state flower of Virginia help attract bees and other pollinators to the flowers.
The American dogwood is a rather large tree, sometimes growing to be more than 30 feet (9.1 meters) tall. The tree trunk can grow to be more than 1 foot (30.5 centimeters) in diameter. In the spring, the state flower of Virginia can be seen covering these trees. These flowers later become bright red fruits in the fall, before the tree drops its leaves in the winter.
When state legislators gathered in 1918 to decide on the sate flower of Virginia, they wanted something that would represent the state's history. Not only is the flowering dogwood abundant in the area, but it also has some historical significance. Thomas Jefferson had the state flower of Virginia planted on his estate, Monticello.
Along with Virginia, the American dogwood is also the state flower of North Carolina. Missouri adopted the dogwood as its state tree. Virginia is one of the only states, however, that has the same state flower as state tree.