Tree of the Month: Pagoda Dogwood

Scientific Name: Cornus alternifolia

Pagoda Dogwood, otherwise known as Alternate-leaf Dogwood, is a common understory and forest edge species that can be found throughout Southern Ontario. This tree gets its name from the alternate leaf arrangement that makes it distinct from other Dogwood species.

It is a relatively slow-growing tree and is a very popular ornamental tree because of its attractive spring flowers and wildlife value. Pagoda Dogwoods can be shrubby or single-stemmed and can grow up to 10 meters tall. This tree grows best in deep moist soils in partial shade. In the spring, this tree has clusters of white flowers that bloom at the end of each branch, where the flowers will open after the leaves have fully developed. Pagoda Dogwood trees produce dark blue berries in mid-summer that grow in clusters on red stalks. This tree has oval-shaped leaves that are found mainly on the ends of the shoots in an alternate pattern and can be up to 13cm long. As well, it has small terminal buds that can be identified by its loose scales. The bark is dark red/brown in colour and is relatively slender and smooth but can develop shallow ridges as it ages. Pagoda Dogwoods can be easy to identify because of their distinct horizontal tiers that occur off the main trunk that give the tree a unique layered look.

Fun Facts

Pagoda dogwoods are a versatile species and can be found in a variety of habitats! They grow in the forest understory, open woodlands, along riverbanks, and in other lowland areas.

This is a great wildlife tree! The berries are a popular summer food for a variety of songbirds.


Farrar, J.L. (1995). Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Image Source: Cannon Nurseries,