Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Dogwood Tree & CSA Surgeon Francis Peyre Porcher

Roundabout via Sister Anne


When I lived out West, I missed the dogwood tree's lacy, airy blooms, which seem to be omnipresent during springtime in the Southeast. To be without the dogwood in spring is like not having spring at all.

The dogwood tree (Cornus florida) hardly needs an introduction in how to identify it. If I were to stop random people on the street and ask them to identify a dogwood - kind of like Jay Leno asking random people about politics - I would be interested to see the results, but I'm guessing even people with no interest in plants could identify a dogwood tree.

Just in case, though, the dogwood is a small, slender-trunked deciduous tree with bark resembling a Roman tiled mosaic. Its large, four-petaled white flowers have a rusty-pink divot, or impression, at the tip of each petal's edge, which cause the petals to slightly curl. The pink-blossomed variety has greenish-white divots. Dogwood blooms have been said to signify Christ nailed to the cross, with the divots being the place where he was nailed.

As a medicine, other than for its aesthetic beauty, dogwood is no longer used; however, Native Americans, African slaves and Confederate soldiers found the tree's medicine highly valuable.
When the Southern ports were blocked during the Civil War, the South lost access to imported medicines, one of which was quinine, which was used to treat malaria, from the bark of the South American Cinchona tree. The surgeon general of the Confederacy commissioned Confederate surgeon and botanist Francis Peyre Porcher of Charleston, S.C., to prepare a treatise on medicinal and economically useful Southern botanicals.

More @  Online Athens



  1. Great post. I tried to post this in comments but for some reason paste isn't working for me tonight with the iPad. The below links to a transcription of the 1863 edition of Dr. Porcher's book. There were a couple of editions, this was the one I found online.

    This may be worthy of a separate post. We might need this information for the coming unpleasantness as much as our ancestors needed it in the last unpleasantness.


  2. It is good that Francis Peyre Porcher is remembered, because Wars are about materials and Culture. And he was doing his best to reduce suffering during the War, with that being an honorable task.