Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Cornus alternifolia

Alternateleaf dogwood, Alternate-leaf dogwood, Pagoda dogwood

Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)

Cornus alternifolia (Alternateleaf dogwood)
Baugh, James C.
Shrub or small tree with short trunk and flat-topped, spreading crown of long, horizontal branches. Alternate-leaf dogwood or pogoda dogwood is a deciduous shrub or small tree, 20-35 ft. tall, with decidedly horizontal branching. Branch ends are upturned. Bark and twigs are green to reddish-purple. Wide, flat-topped clusters of fragrant, white-cream flowers become clusters of reddish-purple berries. Fall foliage is a dull maroon.

Unlike all other native dogwoods, this species has alternate rather than opposite leaves. The name Pagoda Dogwood alludes to the flat-topped crown, with horizontal layers of branches. The bitter berrylike fruits of this and other dogwoods are consumed in quantities in fall and winter by wildlife.

The genus Cornus is Latin for a horn.

Image Gallery:

3 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf: Dark Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Black, Blue
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VT , VA , WV , WI
Canada: MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Nf. to MN & s. Man., s. to n. FL, AL & AR
Native Habitat: Rich, deciduous & mixed woods; rocky slopes; coastal plains; shrub balds

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Cool, moist, acid, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: This tree has infrequent disease and insect problems, however wind and ice damage are common. It is tolerant of poor soils and clay.


Use Wildlife: Attracts ground, water and songbirds and many mammals. The dry, bitter fruits are not edible by human standards, but they provide food for grouse, pheasants, wild turkeys and squirrels. (Kershaw)
Use Other: The roots, mixed with vinegar, yield a light to dark brown dye. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Spring Azure

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Cornus alternifolia is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Spring Azure
(Celastrina "ladon" )

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2012-10-05