Cornus alternifolia

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Cornus alternifolia L.f.


Life form: shrub
Usage: ornamental plant

Exposure: sun - Exposure: half shade   6

Moisture: moderately moist

Soil: sandy loam - Soil: gritty loam - Soil: sandy clay

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: decidious

Shape: ovate

Division: simple


Shape: cruciform
Fruit: drupe

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Inflorescence: cyme

Petals: single
Habit: not specified

Growth form: not specified



Cornus alternifolia is a shrub.


Cornus alternifolia was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1782. The name is considered as validly published.


Cornus alternifolia is a species in the genus Cornus which contains approximately 67 to 87 species and belongs to the family of the Cornaceae (Dogwood Family). The type species of the genus is Cornus mas.


Cornus alternifolia - habitus
Cornus alternifolia - leaves
Cornus alternifolia - bark
Cornus alternifolia - branches


The shrubs reach heights of 6 to 8 metres, they have a erect habit and produce multiple stems. The main growing season is in spring and summer. The plants reach a width of 2 to 5 metres.

Wood and Bark

The bark is black.


Cornus alternifolia is deciduous. The green, simple leaves are alternate. They are ovate and petiolate with entire margins and arcuate venation. The foliage is dense in summer and porous in winter and turns an attractive red to dark red in autumn.

Flowers and Fruits

Cornus alternifolia produces cymes of showy, white cruciform flowers from May to June.

From summer to autumn the shrubs produce ornamental black drupes that are persistent on the plant.

Root System

The plants form shallow roots.


Cornus alternifolia is native to eastern Canada, the Northeast of the US, the central Northeast of the US, the Southeast of the US and Florida.


The shrubs prefer a sunny to half-shady situation on moderately moist soil. They prefer sandy-loamy, gritty-loamy or sandy clay soil with a pH between 4,8 and 7,3. The plants need a soil depth of at least 51 centimetres for good growth. They tolerate temperatures down to -23°C (USDA zone 6) and need a frost-free period of at least 17 weeks.

Classification after Prof. Dr. Sieber

  • open areas

Tolerance of special soil conditions

  • none: soil salinity, anaerobic soil
  • low: drought, calcareous soil


The ornamental value of Cornus alternifolia lies especially in the attractive autumn aspect and its fragrance. The recommended planting distance is 1,5 to 1,8 metres. Suited for moorland gardens and for rockeries, as well as suited as cemetery plant and as plant providing shelter for birds.

Maintenance and Propagation

The plants usually need very little maintenance.

  • Plants can be cut back down to the trunk (coppicing) as necessary.

Propagate by sowing. The seeds require vernalization. Also by cuttings.


Pests and Diseases


  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.

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