pagoda dogwood

(Cornus alternifolia)

Conservation Status
pagoda dogwood
Photo by Randy
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Pagoda dogwood plant is deciduous, slow-growing, and short-lived. It is usually a shrub, sometimes a small tree. In Minnesota mature individuals are usually 8 to 25 tall, with a trunk up to 6 in diameter, though large individuals may reach 30 tall.

When in the form of a shrub, it rises on several sprawling stems that often fork near the ground.

When in the form of a tree, it rises on a single trunk. The crown is broad and flat-topped. Branches are horizontal and curl upwards at the ends. They are arranged in irregular whorls, forming separate, horizontal tiers, which gives the crown a layered appearance and the plant its common name.

The bark on young trees is dark green and smooth. On mature trees the bark is thin, dark gray to reddish brown, and smooth or dividing into shallow fissures.

The twigs are slender, smooth, shiny, greenish-yellow to dark reddish-brown, or dark purplish-red. The pith is white. The tips of the twigs turn upwards. Dead twigs turn yellowish-orange.

The terminal buds are about ¼ long, narrowly egg-shaped, pointed, reddish-brown or purplish-brown, and loosely covered with 2 or 3 scales. Flower buds are rounded.

The leaves are alternate, oval to egg-shaped, 2½ to 4½ long, and 2 to 3 wide. They are on 1¼ to 2 long leaf stalks. They are usually clustered near the tips of the branches, making them appear whorled or almost opposite. On each side of the midrib there are 5 or 6 conspicuous veins that curve upward toward the tip of the leaf. They are rounded or short-tapered at the base and tapered at the tip to a long, sharp point. The upper surface is dark green and hairless or sparsely hairy with appressed hairs. The lower surface is paler and hairy. The leaves turn yellow to red to purple in autumn.

The inflorescence is a large, open, branched cluster at the ends of branches. The clusters are 2 to 4 across and flat-topped or round-topped, usually hemispherical.

The flowers are small and white or cream colored. There are 4 minute sepals, 4 small petals, 4 stamens with long filaments, and a well-developed style. They open after the leaves.

The fruits are berry-like, 5 16 to in diameter, and borne on a red stalk. It is green initially, turning to red, finally to bluish-black. It ripens in mid-summer.




8 to 25


Flower Color




Similar Species


Pagoda dogwood often grows as a tree and always has alternate leaves, distinguishing it from other dogwoods.


Woods, wood edges, thickets.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Cornales (dogwoods, hydrangeas, and allies)  


Cornaceae (dogwood)  
  Subfamily Cornoideae  


Cornus (dogwoods)  
  Subgenus Mesomora  

Subordinate Taxa





  Swida alternifolia  

Common Names


alternate-leaf dogwood

alternate-leaved dogwood

alternateleaf dogwood

green osier

pagoda dogwood

pigeon berry














The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

Visitor Photos

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Characteristic green bark, along with alternate leafing, makes it easy to distinguish from Red and Gray Dogwood.

  pagoda dogwood  

Leaves and flowers.

    pagoda dogwood      


    pagoda dogwood      

Bill Reynolds

    pagoda dogwood   pagoda dogwood  


    pagoda dogwood   pagoda dogwood  

Fall Color

    pagoda dogwood   pagoda dogwood  



  Cornus alternifolia
Blake C. Willson
  Cornus alternifolia  

Pagoda Dogwood

  Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Trees with Don Leopold - alternate-leaf dogwood

Published on Dec 12, 2013

Professor Don Leopold demonstrates the characteristics of the alternate-leaf dogwood.

Content produced by Christopher Baycura for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF).

  Alternate Leaf Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia

Published on May 9, 2012

Two or Three years ago I planted an Alternate Leaf Dogwood sapling because I read a short sentance or two about it in the book "Bringing Nature Home" by Doug Tallamy. He praises it for the berries it makes that birds love to eat, but I have to praise it for the flowers and assortment of pollinators it attracts! This is the first year it's flowered and I've never seen a tree do it so profusely. I have Viburnums that are taller than this that don't produce as many flowers. This was a good pollinator investment.




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June 2021

Location: Albert Lea, MN

Leaves and flowers.

pagoda dogwood  
June 2020

Location: Albert Lea, MN

Characteristic green bark, along with alternate leafing, makes it easy to distinguish from Red and Gray Dogwood.

pagoda dogwood  
  Bill Reynolds

Location: St. Louis Co.

pagoda dogwood  
  Bill Reynolds

Location: St. Louis Co.

pagoda dogwood  






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