The state tree of Virginia is the flowering dogwood. This plant is native to the eastern United States, southeastern regions of Canada, and a few places in eastern Mexico. It is found in a wide range of habitats, often sheltered beneath larger trees.
In March of 1918, the flowering dogwood was selected as the state tree of Virginia, beating out the Virginia creeper. Chosen for the beauty of its flowers and for its abundance throughout the state, the flowering dogwood is also known as the floral emblem of the Commonwealth of Virginia, acting as both the state's official tree and official flower.
A small tree, the state tree of Virginia grows to heights of only about 30 to 40 feet (9.1 to 12.2 meters). When fully grown, the branches of this tree often stretch wider than 30 feet (9.1 meters) across, though the trunk of the tree remains relatively slender, with a dimeter of usually no more than 1 foot (30.5 centimeters). The bark of the tree comes in shades of gray or brown, and the leaves are green and about 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) long. The flowering dogwood is a deciduous tree and sheds its leaves each winter.
The state tree of Virginia grows well in a range of soil types and at a range of elevations. It can be found in both the wet soil around streams and in the drier soil on hillsides. Between the months of April and May, the flowers emerge on the trees, coming out before the leaves. Once the tree has bloomed, it leaves grow back along with a bright red drupe, which is edible by many animal species. By autumn, the drupes have been eaten, the seeds dispersed, and the leaves have begun to fall in preparation for the winter.
The flowers of the state tree of Virginia are themselves quite small, but their arrangement on the tree makes it appear to be covered in large flowers. Dogwood flowers are tiny, with petals that are only about 0.15 inches (4 millimeters) long. These petals are either white or a pale shade of yellow and and grouped together in clusters of about 20. Around the outside of these flower groups there are four large bracts, which are what many people mistakenly call the petals of the flowering dogwood tree. The bracts come in white or shades of pink, and the state tree of Virginia may be either of these colors.