What alternate-leaf dogwood looks like

Size and shape

  • Slow growing shrub/small tree.
  • Reaches 8 to 10 metres high.


  • Dark green on top and light green with fine hairs below (6 to 12 centimetres long).
  • Half as wide with 5 to 6 deep, curved veins.
  • Leaves are alternate and arranged in clusters at end of branches.


  • Bright green with vertical white streaks.
  • New growth/twigs are purple.


  • Creamy-white, occurring in clusters in May-June.


  • Berries are dark blue on red stalks.
  • Grow in mid-summer.

Where alternate-leaf dogwood is found

Alternate-leaf dogwood is a common understory or forest-edge species throughout Southern Ontario and in parts of Central Ontario. Isolated populations occur near Thunder Bay and Lake of the Woods.

What to know to grow alternate-leaf dogwood

  • Moisture: prefers evenly moist soils.
  • Shade: prefers partial shade to full sun with plenty of moisture.
  • Soil: prefers nutrient rich, acidic, well-drained deep soils.
  • Planting tip: mulch well with 8 centimetres of bark mulch or plant near the sloped edge of a waterbody where roots can access water in summer.

Benefits and uses of alternate-leaf dogwood

Wildlife benefits

  • Provides nesting habitat for birds.
  • Twigs and leaves are browsed by rabbits, deer and beaver.
  • Berries are eaten by birds, chipmunks and bears.
  • The flower’s sweet smell attracts many types of insects for pollination, including butterflies, moths and other insects.

Commercial uses

Alternate-leaf dogwood is commonly grown as a landscape ornamental.

Fun facts about alternate-leaf dogwood

  • Alternate-leaf dogwood is a host for larval spring azure butterflies. These showy butterflies are attracted to the flowers for their nectar.