TikTok debates Missouri’s state tree, the flowering dogwood

A Missouri neighborhood sits atop black walnut trees growing in a tree.

A Missouri neighborhood sits atop black walnut trees growing in a tree.

Via the Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri made the eastern flowering dogwood its state tree in 1955 because of the beauty of its spring flowers.

But in recent days, TikTok disagreed with this choice.

“I think the state tree of Missouri, if it were to be chosen today, out of nowhere, probably won’t be the flowering dogwood tree,” said Justin Davies, a content creator on the platform.

Davies, a freelance woodworking artist based in Utah, has a series on TikTok carving each state from the wood of his state tree. His last video of the series featuring Missouriwhich shares its state tree with Virginia.

Missouri 2.jpg
Justin Davies holds a state map that he carved from the wood of the flowering dogwood tree, Missouri’s state tree. Justin Davies

But in videos posted to his TikTok account, Davies pleaded for the state tree to be replaced with black walnut because of its unique ties to Missouri.

“This Missouri concept is home to black walnut cultivation, and it’s this crop that’s harvested from the wild that was really cool and interesting,” Davies said.

The case of the black walnut

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri is the world’s largest producer of black walnuts, which come from the black walnut tree. The town of Stockton itself calls itself the “Black Walnut Capital of the World” as it is home to the world’s largest commercial nut processor, according to its chamber of commerce website.

The black walnut is already the official state nut. Its tree is not grown in orchards, but rather in wild fields and forests across the state. The tree’s nuts and wood have many uses, from cooking to building furniture, said Missouri Department of Conservation spokesman Bill Graham.

“That’s how versatile a walnut tree is,” Graham said. “They can grow in so many places and be prolific and sometimes be incredibly big if they’ve been growing for a century or two.”

Davies thinks young Americans today are looking for a tree that represents the history of their home country instead of just aesthetics – which black walnut can offer.

“What they’re looking for and what they value is a tree that seems a bit more culturally significant to their region and place,” he said.

The Beauty of Missouri’s Beloved Eastern Flowering Dogwood

However, the eastern flowering dogwood has strong ties to Missouri. The tree is found in the woods of the Ozarks, but is also planted as an ornamental tree statewide, according to the Department of Conservation. It is recognizable by its white or pink flowers with four petal-like bracts, which appear in early spring.

According to Graham, these spring blooms play an important role in the tree’s reputation in Missouri and its selection as a state tree.

“I think that’s probably the #1 reason, it’s just the fact that spring is a welcome change from winter and the dogwood tree is a very bright visible harbinger of spring,” said Graham.

Despite his advocacy of black walnut, Davies said he understands why the flowering dogwood remains Missouri’s state tree because of its beauty. Since the video’s premiere, he’s heard from hundreds of Missourians who have described their relationship with black walnut trees and the state’s “home ecosystem.”

“You can choose any state in a hat, and I can choose to talk about the gaps there,” Davies said. “But the native trees and ecosystems of these states are interesting and unique and valuable and worth studying and studying.”

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