English Name—COMMON DOGWOOD.
French Name—Cornouiller fleuri.
German Name—Schonbluhender Hartriegel.
Officinal Name—Cornus florida.
Vulgar Names—Dogwood, Dogtree, Boxtree, Florid Cornel, Monhacaniminschi, &c.
Authorities—Lin. Mich. Pursh, Schoepf, Catesby, Thacher, Coxe, Carpenter, Elliot, B. Barton, Big. fig. 28, and Seq. W. Bart. fig. 3, &c.
Genus CORNUS—Calix symphogyne, four toothed. Petals four, small and broad. Stamina four, epigyne alternating with petals. One style and stigma. Fruit a drupe inclosing a bilocular two seeded nut.
Species C. FLORIDA—Arborescent; leaves opposite, ovate, acuminate, base acute, glaucous beneath: Involucres corolliform, nearly obcordate; drupes ovate and scarlet.
Description—Stem rising from fifteen to thirty feet, with a rough blackish bark full of fissures: branches opposite, spreading, with reddish bark and rings where the old leaves grew.—Leaves opposite, petiolate, oval, entire, base acute, end acuminate, pale beneath, with strong parallel veins.
Flowers terminal, appearing when the leaves are young, with a large four leaved involucre three inches broad, commonly mistaken for the blossom, white, obcordate, veined. The true flowers are in the centre, small, crowded, sessile, yellowish. Calix campanulate, symphogyne, with four obtuse teeth. Corolla with four oblong, obtuse petals. Stamina four erect, anthers oblong, style short, erect, stigma obtuse. Fruits several oval scarlet drupes, with a nut inside having two cells and two seeds.
History—The genus Cornus or Cornel, must be divided into two sections, those species having the flowers capitate, sessile, and with an involucre, are the true Dogwoods, (Cynoxylon), and those with cymose, naked flowers, are the true Cornels. It belongs with Hedera to the natural family of HEDERACES, and to TETRANDRIA monogynia of Linnaeus. Cornus is the ancient latin name of the Cornels, and florida implies that the blossoms are more conspicuous than in any other species.
The C. florida is a handsome tree, enlivening the woods in the spring by a profusion of large white blossoms, and bearing in the fall clusters of beautiful scarlet berries. In Louisiana, where it is called Bois bouton, or Bois de fleche, (Bud wood and Arrowwood) it blossoms in February; in the middle states in April and May, and more northwardly in June. It lasts a fortnight in full bloom, and every where indicates according to the Indians, when Indian corn is to be planted.
This tree grows very slow, and the wood is hard, compact, heavy and durable; it is white outside, and chocolate color in the centre, taking a very fine polish. It may be used like Boxwood, and when stained of a light yellow color, resembles it altogether. All kinds of tools and instruments are made with it, also cogs of wheels, teeth of harrows, spoons, &c.
Locality—All over the United States, and almost in every soil, from Massachusetts to Louisiana, and from Florida to Missouri. Most abundant in swampy and moist wroods.
Qualities—The bark of the root, stem and branches is bitter, astringent and slightly aromatic. By analysis it has been found to contain in different proportion the same substances as Cinchona, having more of Gum mucilage, extractive and Gallic acid, and less of Resin, Quinine, and Tannin. The Quinine of the Cornus a has been called Cornine, it has all the properties of the genuine Sulphate of Quinine, but very little is afforded. The double distilled water of Cornus is lemon color, that of Cinchona is reddish.
The extract of Cornus is less bitter and more astringent than that of the best Cinchona, but preferable to the extract of the inferior kinds.
This extract contains all the tonic properties, the resin alone is merely stimulant. The bark of the root is the strongest; it is more soluble in water than Cinchona. The fresh bark frequently disagrees with the stomach, and is improved by keeping at least one year.
Properties—Tonic, astringent, antiseptic, coroborant and stimulant. It is one of the best native substitutes for Cinchona, although evidently different in some respects; the powdered bark quickens the pulse, and sometimes produces pains in the bowels; but the Sulphate of Cornine and the extract are not so stimulant. They are used in intermittent and remittent fevers also, typhus and all febrile disorders. The doses of the powder are from twenty-five to thirtyfive grains, often repeated. The Cornine like Quinine.
In cases of debility it acts as a corroborant; it may be joined in practice with Gentian, Colombo, Camomile, Liriodendron, Seneca root, &c. It is often used in decoction in the country, and even the twigs are chewed as a prophylactic against fevers. Drunkards use a tincture of the berries as a bitter for the same purpose and for indigestion.
The flowers have the same properties, and are chiefly used by the Indians, in warm infusion for fevers and cholics. All these preparations have a more agreeable bitterness than the Peruvian bark.
It is said that the twigs rubbed or chewed, clean and keep sound the gums and teeth. A decoction of the bark is used to cure the distemper of horses called the yellow water. Joined with sassafras it is employed in strong warm decoction to clean foul ulcers and cancers. Lastly, a kind of black ink can be made with the bark, in the usual way, instead of galls.
Substitutes—Cinchona—Liriodendron—Magnolia sp—Pinckneya—Cephalanthus, and most of the astringent tonics, besides several species of the same genus.
Remarks—Almost all the species of this genus have more or less the same tonic properties, and may be substituted to the C. florida. Three of the best known as most efficient will be mentioned here.
1. Cornus Sericea or Blueberry Cornel, vulgarly called Swamp Dogwood or Rose Willow, is a shrub from six to twelve feet high, growing from Canada to Virginia, near swamps and streams. There is a figure of it in W. Barton, fig. 9. The leaves are like those of C. florida, and silky beneath, but the flowers are very different, in large terminal cymes, without involucrum, yellowish white, and succeeded by large clusters of small round blue berries.—The bark is less bitter, more astringent and pleasant to the taste than in C. florida.
2. C. circinnata or Round leaved Cornel, also called Alder Dogwood, is a shrub with warty twigs, large rounded leaves, woolly beneath: the flowers are in cymes, without involucrum. It grows from Canada to Pennsylvania.—Prof. E. Ives of New Haven, and Dr. A. Ives of New York, extol this kind, they say it resembles the pale Peruvian Bark, Cinchona lancifolia: an ounce of the bark yields by boiling 150 grains, of an astringent and intensely bitter extract. In use it is found preferable to Colombo and Cinchona cordifolia, it is much employed in the Northern States, in substance and otherwise, for diarrhoea, dyspepsia; but is too heating in fevers.
3. C. alba or Wax-berry Cornel, is also a shrub, growing from New England to Siberia in Asia, with broad ovate leaves, white beneath, flowers in cymes, berries round, white like wax.—All these blossom from May to June: many birds are fond of their berries and the beavers eat their bark.
Additions and corrections
28. CORNUS FLORIDA—Called sometimes Bitter Redberry. It ought never to be taken fresh, because it affects the bowels in that state: it is beneficial in debility of the stomach and loss of appetite. The Southern Indians use it in poultice for sores. The C. paniculata is also another equivalent, and perhaps all our Cornels are such.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.