Every spring Missouri's landscape comes alive in shades of pink and white. Redbud trees usher in the new season with masses of tiny pink blossoms decorating delicate branches. Soon after, dogwood trees brighten the hillsides with brilliant white flowers. Missourians love the showy blooms so much, the flowering dogwood has been the official state tree since 1955.
As native understory trees, redbud and dogwood are fairly inconspicuous much of the year, but for a few short weeks, from mid-April through early May, they put on an unforgettable show. Depending on the weather and growing conditions, they sometimes bloom simultaneously in a double burst of color.
The trees grow in most parts of the state, but they thrive in large numbers throughout the Ozarks, especially along wooded slopes, bluffs and ravines. They flourish in many Missouri State Parks, including Lake of the Ozarks, Bennett Spring, Truman Lake, Echo Bluff and Table Rock Lake. You can find them in Mark Twain National Forest, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri Conservation Areas and along secondary roads in the southern half of the state. A springtime hike, road trip or float trip on one of Missouri's crystal-clear rivers is the best way to enjoy the beauty.
Redbud and dogwood can also be seen in botanical gardens and parks across the Show-Me State. The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has more than 250 native flowering dogwood trees (Cornus florida) as well as several other dogwood varieties in their English Woodland and Japanese gardens.
At Powell Gardens, 30 minutes southeast of Kansas City in Kingsville, the Dogwood Walk provides a shaded path lined with a variety of flowering trees, including several types of dogwood. The Woodland and Stream Garden includes more dogwood as well as redbud.
The Springfield Botanical Gardens at the Nathaniel Greene/Close Memorial Park is home to the Redbud Gazebo, surrounded by a variety of redbud species. The park's Azalea Garden features dogwood and other flowering trees.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a prime spot for viewing its namesake tree. Located near Branson, the park offers guided hikes each spring to see the beautiful blooms. Or you can explore on your own on the park's hiking, biking and equestrian trails.
Several Missouri towns celebrate Missouri's treasured state tree each year. The Dogwood Festival in Camdenton showcases the flowering trees that grow in the woodlands surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks. The festival includes a parade, dog contest, golf tournament and fish fry.
The Southeast Missouri town of Charleston combines dogwoods with azaleas for a festival that has been named one of the best spring flower festivals in America. A six-mile trail lined with trees and bushes bearing pink and white blooms is the highlight of the annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival. Events include historic home tours, carriage rides, a parade and a plant sale.
Written by Liz Coleman