Cornus alternifolia, Alternate-leaf or Pagoda Dogwood

Tried and True Native Plants of the Mid-Atlantic

Layers of horizontal branches tapering in size toward the top give this highly prized ornamental tree its common name.  This native of the understory of woods in the eastern United States is a favorite tree of ecologist and entomologist Doug Tallamy because of its value to pollinators and birds.

Print Version: Cornus alternifolia, Alternate-Leaf or Pagoda Dogwood
Cornus alternifolia, Pagoda Dogwood, Tree Height: 15–25 feet Spread: 15–35 feet Bloom Color: Creamy white Characteristics Flat-topped, small deciduous tree or large shrub with horizontal branching habit Elliptic to ovate leaves–above smooth, medium green; below hairy, bluish color–clustered at the ends of branches, appearing almost whorled Flat, fragrant, white flower clusters from May to June Blue-black drupes in July and August; fruit stalks remain and turn attractive red Mix of yellow and maroon fall foliage Gray to brown bark, becoming ridged with age; young stems often purple Attributes Tolerant of sun and light shade; no serious pests although scale, leaf miners, and borers appear on occasion; susceptible to leaf spot, twig and leaf blights, root rot, and canker Deer occasionally severely damage Attracts many pollinators; high wildlife value used by 64 wildlife species and 43 bird species Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Rich, acidic Light Requirements: Partial Shade, Shade Water Requirements: Moist Moisture vital for longterm survival; mulch root zone Use as specimen, on terrace, along shaded water’s edge, in woodland gardens and naturalistic areas Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-7 Excellent Replacement for Acer tataricum var. ginnala - Amur Maple Cornus kousa - Japanese Dogwood Paulownia tomentosa - Princess Tree *In the Mid-Atlantic, it is absent in DC. In DE, it is common in the Pidemont and rare in the Coastal Plain. It is found throughout PA. In VA, it is frequent in the mountains and infrequent to rare elsewhere. In NoVA, it is absent in Alexandria and Prince William County.
Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets