Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is one of the first trees to color in the fall. The deep red leaves can glow neon if the sun backlights them. It is beautiful in the fall and for at least three seasons.
The Flowering Dogwood is the state flower of North Carolina, a fact I always thought strange. The dogwood tree with its tiny yellow flowers and showy white (or pink) bracts is the state flower. Clearly botanists and gardeners did not have a say in this.
The state tree is the pine which is reasonable enough since they are everywhere here. The Longleaf Pine has been proposed as the specific pine but has never been made official, so "Pine" it remains on the record since 1963. Loblolly pine is more common, so maybe it should be that. (So far no one's asked me.) For your further education, we also have a state beverage. Milk. And a state dog. The plott hound.
Flowering dogwood will grow in sun or shade - you will often see it in the coastal plain in full sun. It always seems overexposed, though, with a tight little crown and short trunk. Even if they flower prolifically in that situation which they often do, I feel their stress in those grassy lawns with intense light. In my mind I move them and they are in the company of oaks, elms and hickories as graceful understory trees. There they are cooler, spreading branches and lighting up the shade with their white blooms.
Flowering dogwood is one of our most beautiful native plants for Charlotte and all of North Carolina. Every shady garden should have at least one.
Cornus florida, NCSU Fact Sheet
NC State Symbols