The Alternate-leafed (or Pagoda) Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is a shrub or small tree with leaves that are 5 to 13 cm in length, alternately arranged, and often crowded toward the tips of greenish twigs (some leaves may be oppositely arranged or whorled). The leaves are conspicuously acuminate (i.e., tapered to a narrow tip) with 4 to 5 veins to each side of the midrib. Petioles (leaf stalks) may range from 8 to 50 mm even on a single twig. The pith is white. Buds have two scales and leaf scars are narrow and raised, with three bundle scars. Maximum tree height is around 6 to 7 m. Flowers, which appear in late spring after the leaves, are small and white and borne in flat-topped clusters 4 to 6 cm across (Choukas-Bradley and Alexander 1987). The blue-black fruits are clustered at the ends of twigs and have red stems. Cornus alternifolia is found in eastern North America from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas and is often found growing in rich woods and thickets. The insect-pollinated flowers attract a variety of butterflies and bees. The fruits are eaten by many birds, including Ruffed Grouse, and the twigs are browsed by deer and rabbits. (Petrides 1988; Gleason and Cronquist 1991)
According to molecular phylogenetic analyses by Fan and Xiang (2001) and Xiang et al. (2006), the sister species to the North American C. alternifolia is the Asian species C. controversa, a finding that is consistent with a range of similarities. These two species are the only extant Cornus with alternately arranged leaves (although even in these species the leaves are often in subopposite pairs or, at the ends of branches, crowded almost into whorls). In addition, they are the only two species whose fruits consistently have stones with deep pits in their apices (C. controversa with a small deep pit and C. alternifolia with a large one) and both have a derived chromosome number (2n=20 rather than the typical 22; Gleason and Cronquist 1991) and lack rudimentary inflorescence bracts as well as extra seed chambers. (Eyde 1988) In addition to these morphological and cytological similarities, C. alternifolia and C. controversa also have similar anthocyanin profiles (Vareed et al. 2006).
Vareed et al. (2006) analyzed the anthocyanins present in the fruits of C. alternifolia and several other Cornus species, quantifying them using HPLC, characterizing them using spectroscopic methods, and screening their biological activity using several different assays. Results suggested potential anti-tumor activity for C. alternifolia fruits.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
States to the Florida Panhandle. It extends west to the northern shores
of Lake Superior and eastern Minnesota and south through the Midwest
States to Arkansas and Mississippi [6,21,27].
Occurrence in North America
ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NH NJ NY
NC OH PA RI SC TN VT VA WV WI
MB NB NF ON PQ NS
Alternate-leaf dogwood is a large shrub or small tree that may reach 25
to 30 feet (7.5-9 m) in height [5,14,25]. The trunk forks near the
ground into several branches that spread horizontally in layers. The
bark is thin. The alternate leaves occur mainly at the end of the
twigs. The fruit is a drupe [10,17,21,31].
Range and Habitat in Illinois
found in moist woodlands, along forest margins, on stream and swamp
borders, and near deep canyon bottoms [1,16,21].
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: hardwood
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
17 Pin cherry
21 Eastern white pine
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
42 Bur oak
46 Eastern redcedar
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock
60 Beech - sugar maple
62 Silver maple - American elm
70 Longleaf pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
Key Plant Community Associations
United States and in the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) forest of the
Great Lakes region [8,16,18].
Common associates of alternate-leaf dogwood include chokecherry (Prunus
virginiana), American hazel (Corylus americana), hazelnut (C. cornuta),
mountain maple (Acer spicatum), striped maple (A. pennsylvanicum), black
cherry (Prunus serotina), serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis),
mountain-laurel (Kalmia latifolia), huckleberries (Vaccinium spp), and
dogwoods (Cornus spp.) [2,18,21].
Plant Response to Fire
No specific information is available on fire response of alternate-leaf
digwood. Since it sprouts from the root crown, it probably does so
after top-kill by fire.
Perala  reported that alternate-leaf dogwood was "encouraged" by
prescribed fire in an aspen-mixed hardwood forest in north-central
Minnesota, but no details were given.
Immediate Effect of Fire
Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
More info for the terms: shrub, tree
Facultative Seral Species
Alternate-leaf dogwood is shade-tolerant [9,20]. It is a dominant
understory species in mature forest in New England, and a
late-successsional understory shrub in the aspen (Populus spp.) and
sugar maple forests of Michigan [21,26].
Alternate-leaf dogwood also occurs in younger tree stands. It was a
dominant shrub species in a 49-year-old aspen stand and an 18-year-old
aspen stand in northern Minnesota . Alternate-leaf dogwood had a
density of 54 stems per hectare in a 20- to 30-year-old burn in North
Carolina . Alternate-leaf dogwood occurs in both young (age less than 41
years) and old (age >40 years) oak (Quercus spp.) clearcuts in
southwestern Wisconsin .
The dogwood species reproduce by layering, sprouting from the root
crown, and by seed [21,30]. The seed is dispersed by gravity and
animals. Germination is delayed due to embryo dormancy .
Alternate-leaf dogwood is vegetatively propagated .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
dogwood are not well documented in the literature. If the roots or
stems survive fire, it may reproduce vegetatively. Alternate-leaf
dogwood may colonize fire disturbed sites with animal-dispersed seed
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Cornus alternifolia
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cornus alternifolia
Public Records: 10
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Alternate-leaf dogwood provides cover for many small birds and animals
Cornus alternifolia is a species of flowering plant in the dogwood family Cornaceae, native to eastern North America, from Newfoundland west to southern Manitoba and Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and Mississippi. It is rare in the southern United States. It is commonly known as green osier, alternate-leaved dogwood, and pagoda dogwood.
It is a small deciduous tree growing to 25 feet (8 m) (rarely 30 feet (9 m)) tall, with a trunk up to 6 inches (152 mm) in diameter. The branches develop characteristic horizontal layers separated by gaps, with a flat-topped crown. Its leaves are elliptic to ovate and grow to 2–5 inches (51–127 mm) long and 1–2 inches (25–51 mm) broad, arranged alternately on the stems, not in opposite pairs typical of the majority of Cornus species. The leaves are most often arranged in crowded clusters around the ends of the twigs and appear almost whorled. The upper sides of the leaves are smooth and green, while the undersides are hairy and a bluish color. The bark is colored gray to brown, becoming ridged as it ages. Small cream colored flowers are produced, with four small petals. The flowers are grouped into cymes, with the inflorescences 2–5 inches (51–127 mm)2-5 across. It bears berries with a blackish blue color.
- Bark: Dark reddish brown, with shallow ridges. Branchlets at first pale reddish green, later dark green.
- Wood: Reddish brown, sapwood pale; heavy, hard, close-grained. Sp. gr., 0.6696; weight of cu. ft., 41-73 lbs.
- Winter buds: Light chestnut brown, acute. Inner scales enlarge with the growing shoot and become half an inch long before they fall.
- Leaves: Alternate, rarely opposite, often clustered at the ends of the branch, simple, three to five inches long, two to three wide, oval or ovate, wedge-shaped or rounded at base; margin is wavy toothed, slightly reflexed, apex acuminate. They come out of the bud involute, reddish green above, coated with silvery white tomentum beneath, when full grown are bright green above, pale, downy, almost white beneath. Feather-veined, midrib broad, yellowish, prominent beneath, with about six pairs of primary veins. In autumn they turn yellow, or yellow and scarlet. Petioles slender, grooved, hairy, with clasping bases.
- Flowers: April, May. Perfect, cream color, borne in many-flowered, broad, open cymes, at the end of short lateral branches.
- Calyx: The cup-shaped flowers have four petals that are valvate in bud, unwrapping when in bloom with cream colored, oblong shaped petals with rounded ends. The petals are inserted on disk and the stamens are inserted too and arranged alternately to the petals, being four in number also. The stamens are exserted with filaments long and slender. Anthers oblong, introrse, versatile, two-celled; cells opening longitudinally.
- Pistil: Ovary inferior, two-celled; style columnar; stigma capitate.
- Fruit: Drupe, globular, blue-black, 0.3 in (8 mm) across, tipped with remnant of style which rises from a slight depression; nut obovoid, many-grooved. October.
C. alternifolia is found under open deciduous trees, as well as along the margins of forests and swamps. These trees prefer moist, well drained soil.
Seedlings are shade-tolerant and it is often found as an understory tree in mature forests, such as those dominated by Acer saccharum (sugar maple) or Populus (aspen). It is also common in younger forests.
The tree is regarded as attractive because of its wide-spreading shelving branches and flat-topped head, and is often used in ornamental plantings. The flower clusters have no great white involucre as have those of the flowering dogwood, and the fruit is dark purple instead of red.
C. alternifolia is susceptible to golden canker (Cryptodiaporthe corni), particularly when drought-stressed or heat-stressed. Proper siting of the plant in partial to full shade, along with adequate mulch and water, will reduce the incidence of this pathogen.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cornus alternifolia.|
- "Cornus Alternifolia Range Map". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- "Cornus alternifolia L. f.". USDA GRIN Taxonomy.
- "Trees of Wisconsin: Cornus alternifolia".
- "NRCS: USDA Plants Profile and map: C. alternifolia".
- Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 186–189.
- Coladonato, Milo (1994). "Cornus alternifolia". Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
- "RHS Plant Selector - Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'". Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- Michelle Grabowski. "Golden Canker on Pagoda Dogwood". University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- Wang L, Waltenberger B, Pferschy-Wenzig EM, Blunder M, Liu X, Malainer C, Blazevic T, Schwaiger S, Rollinger JM, Heiss EH, Schuster D, Kopp B, Bauer R, Stuppner H, Dirsch VM, Atanasov AG. Natural product agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ): a review. Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Jul 29. pii: S0006-2952(14)00424-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2014.07.018. PubMed PMID 25083916.
- Trees, by Coombes, Allen J., Eyewitness Handbooks
Names and Taxonomy
Cornus alternifolia L.f. (Cornaceae) . There are no recognized
infrataxa. Alternate-leaf dogwood hybridizes with red-osier dogwood (C.
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