Common Name: Alternate-leaf dogwood, pagoda dogwood

Scientific Name: 
Family: Cornaceae
Genus: Cornus
Species: C. alternifolia

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 15 to 25 ft
Width: 20 to 30 ft

Common Characteristics: ​

Alternate leaf dogwood is also known as pagoda dogwood for its tiered horizontal branching. Its green, red, or purple branches form a distinctive flat-topped crown accompanied by a spreading horizontal branch architecture. The older parts of the plant, such as the trunk, are mostly smooth and light brownish-green. Its flowers are fragrant and light yellow to cream-colored and bloom in late spring. After flowering, the dogwood will produce pea-sized fruits in clusters that are either green or bluish-black depending on the time of year. The buds of the plant, alternately arranged, are purple and slightly fuzzy/hairy. 

Where It Grows:

It is in deciduous and mixed forests where it inhabits understory and border areas. It is also said to inhabit floodplains, cedar swamps, and the banks and thickets above lakes and streams.  It happily grows in shaded and partially shaded areas in moist, well-drained acidic soil, though it will tolerate a range of soil conditions.

How It's Used:

It is used as an ornamental shrub or small tree. It is an effective border shrub, woodland gardens shrub, and in naturalized areas as a flowering tree.

Ecosystem Services:

The flowers are a nectar source for the Spring Azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon) which also utilizes the plant's flower buds as a host site for its larva. The fruit is bitter and enjoyed by a variety of native wildlife such as birds, bears, squirrels, pheasants, wild turkey, and grouse. 

Where It Is Native To:

The native distribution of the plant is mainly in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States stretching north into southern Canada.

Known Varieties and Their Traits:

  • Gold BuillionTM Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia 'Bachone') - exhibits golden-yellow foliage and plants reach 8 to 10 feet high and wide 
  • Golden ShadowsTM Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia 'W. Stackman') - exhibits a variegated form with creamy-white margins and grows best in partial shade 


This plant is susceptible to leaf spot, twig blight, leaf blight, root rot, golden stem cankers, scale, leaf miner, and borers.


Spring Azure

Cornus alternifolia

Pagoda Dogwood

alternate-leaf dogwood fruit
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alternate leaf dogwood fruit_2