Among the constituents of the hedgerow and copse
that borders many a country road, the Dogwood
or Cornel is apt to be overlooked as Privet, to
which it bears a resemblance by its opposite leaves
and clusters of small white flowers. It is widely
distributed over Britain as far north as Westmorland.
It does not occur in Scotland, and is rare in
Ireland. It grows to a height of six or eight
feet, and is clothed with opposite oval leaves,
which are smooth on both surfaces.
The flowers secrete nectar and are produced in
June or July at the extremities of the branches
in dense round cymes. They are small, opaque white,
with four petals and four stamens; the central
flower which opens first, has five petals and
stamens. Their unpleasant odour appears to render
them more attractive to flies and small beetles.
The flowers are succeeded by small green berries,
which turn purple-black about September, and are
exceedingly bitter. They are said to yield an
oil which is used in France for soap-making, and
has been here burned in lamps.
The Dogwood has a great variety of local names,
which, however, makes it not less interesting,
indicating how ancient and general is the underlying
idea which has given rise to them. Dogwood or
Dagwood was the wood which dags, goads, and skewers
were made, because, as the Latin Cornus signifies,
it was of horny hardness and toughness.