22" x 26"
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Northwest United States & British Columbia
Flowering dogwoods are understory trees. “Understory” refers to the fact that they grow under the canopy of bigger trees. Two of the most popular understory trees in the Eastern states and provinces are the Eastern Flowering Dogwood and the Red Bud. Homeowners are drawn to the stunning sprays of flowers from these two species in the spring. Their small size is also a distinct advantage for small yards of suburban properties. When I was walking in the Yosemite Valley, I saw what appeared to be two flowering dogwoods, but they were about twice the size of the ones with which I was familiar back east.
I thought that I was looking at a variety of the eastern dogwood. I looked them up in my guidebook and discovered that I had made the same mistake as David Douglas, after whom the Douglas Fir was named. It was a Western Flowering Dogwood. Douglas was the first to discover the Western Flowering Dogwood but thought it was a large specimen of the Eastern type. When Scientist Thomas Nuttall looked at it he realized it was a new species. Later, James Audubon named the species in honor of Nuttall. The botanical name is Cornus nuttallii.
In painting a flowering dogwood, the feature that I wanted to emphasize was the brilliant white flowers that seem to swirl around the tree in layers. It is easy to find Dogwood flowers shining in the bright sun because they flower before their leaves appear and they flower before the leaves of the top trees appear. The unimpeded sun lights up their white flowers dramatically. However, the western Dogwood is often growing among conifers which don’t lose their leaves. I was lucky in this instance to find a place where the sun was poking down through a hole in the canopy so that at least one of the dogwoods caught the sun. The other dogwoods were in the shade but some of their flowers stood out against the dark trunks of the Western Redcedar trees.
Western Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus nuttallii) and Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata) can be seen in Washington State, Oregon, British Columbia, Northern California, and Idaho.