Cornus alternifolia

Pagoda Dogwood




  • native to the eastern United States
  • zone 4

Habit and Form

  • a small deciduous tree
  • reaches a maximum height of around 25'
  • has horizontal or tiered branching
  • branching is also sympodial
  • shape is often somewhat irregular, but can be more or less rounded
  • loose and open density

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • foliage typically whorled near the branch tips
  • leaves are simple, elliptic with an acuminate tip
  • leaves are 2" to 5" long and 1" to 2.5" wide
  • fairly long petiole
  • leaf color is medium to dark green

Autumn Foliage

  • not developing an outstanding impact
  • a mix of yellow with reddish purple mixing in


  • small, white flowers
  • borne in flat clusters
  • flowering occurs in late May and early June
  • fragrant
  • flowering can be described as moderately showy


  • changes from green to blue-black, passing through a reddish stage
  • showy color develops in late July and august, but fruits don't persist long
  • fruit stalks remains and turn a pleasing coral red color


  • older bark is gray brown and lightly ridged and furrowed
  • younger bark is smooth and reddish brown


  • cool, moist, acidic soils are best
  • partial shade is ideal
  • full sun is acceptable if the site is not hot and dry
  • performs best in colder climates

Landscape Use

  • works best in naturalistic areas
  • edges of woods
  • edges of shaded waterways
  • useful for its interesting horizontal branching
  • as a specimen


  • somewhat short-lived
  • needs specific site requirements
  • twig blight and canker are significant problems in some locations

ID Features

  • a small tree or large shrub
  • sympodial branching
  • leaves whorled at the tips
  • reddish frit stalks
  • flat clusters of small white flowers in late spring
  • smooth reddish-brown bark on young branches


  • by seed
  • by cuttings


'Argentea' (also sometimes listed as 'Variegata') - The only commonly available cultivar, it is a rare form that is difficult to propagate and therefore fetches a high price. It is a smaller, shrubby plant (to 15' tall) with layered branches and leaves that are handsomely variegated with a white margin. Specialty nurseries are beginning to offer this selection in greater numbers.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.