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Cornus (alternifolia)

Jan Schultz
Forest Plant Ecologist
USDA FS - Hiawatha National Forest
1030 Wright Street
Marquette, Michigan 49855
906.228.4484 (fax)

Family Scientific Name: Cornaceae
Family Common Name: Dogwood Family
Scientific Name: Cornus alternifolia L.f.
Common Name: Alternate-leaved dogwood
Species Code: COAL2
General Distribution: Deciduous and mixed forests (rarely in spruce-fir stands) either as an understory shrub or along borders; floodplains and cedar swamps, banks and thickets above lakes and streams. A shrub or small tree. 3-9'tall. Flowers clustered in white cymes. Stems are especially showy in winter and early spring. Alternate arrangement of leaves at the ends of twigs.
Propagation Goal: plants
Propagation Method: seed
ProductType: Container (plug)
Time To Grow: 0
Propagule Collection: Seed is collected by hand from locally native plants within the eastern central Upper Peninsula. Flowers from June to August. Fruits are white berries (drupes). Seed is harvested from from September to October.
Propagule Processing: Remove the pulp as soon as possible after picking by stripping off the pulp by hand or very lightly with a blender using water or rubbing the berry on a sieve and floating off the pulp. Dry seeds for 1 week. Once seeds have dried begin stratification.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Two to three months of moist cold stratification is required. Use a Ziploc-style bag or a small Rubbermaid style container to mix an equal amount of either perlite or vermiculite. Add a small amount of water. (There should be no visible water within the bag or container). Place in a refrigerator or garage (33-42 degrees F) for two to three months. Cold store until planted (up to 3 years).
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
Propagation Environment: Greenhouse film is made of Standard U.V. 3HL Clear 6 mil (J.R. Johnson's Greenhouse Supply Inc.). Fans run continuously to circulate the air. Vents open during the summer months for cooling. Container Type: grows best in 24 cell (2"diameter) 14"x8.5"x4" deep flats, and other flats with 2" diameter or more and depths of 4" or more. Sowing Media: Scotts Redi-earth Plug and Seedling Mix. Contains vermiculite, and sphagnum peat moss. Soil is sterile.
Thoroughly moisten the soil with water, mixing in the water with a trowel. Cover the holes in the bottom/sides of the plug tray cells with newspaper so that the soil does not fall out. Fill cells with damps soil and press soil down with a spoon. Refill the cell plugs wiht soil to the top, this time not pressing it down. Water the soil in the plug cells again. Sow the seeds by hand at a rate of about 1 seed in each small cell and 2 seeds in each cell with a diameter greater than 2.5". Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil or gently press the seeds into the dirt. Sow year-round due to unpredictable germination rates.
Establishment Phase: From Jan. until Aug. the greenhouse thermostat is set at 65 degrees F both day and night. Ambient greenhouse temperatures may reach 100 degrees F during the day in the summer. From Sept. thru Dec. the thermostat is set at 55 degrees F. During this season ambient greenhouse temperatures may reach 75 degrees F during the day. The greenhouse holds plants at all stages of growth so the temperature setting stays the same for all plants at all stages of growth. Soil is kept consistently damp during germination. Water using a fine mist or light hose setting only. Newly planted trays are placed on the south side of the greenhouse. No artificial light is used.
Active Growth Phase: The soil does not need to be consistently moist. Move trays to cooler north greenhouse tables. No fertilizers are used.
Hardening Phase: In early-late spring, mature plants can be moved into a cold frame with a cover of material that diffuses sunlight to prevent scorching of the plants. When danger of frost has passed leave plants outside. Water less frequently.
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: In the Upper Peninsula, flats are planted from late May to early October. Flats that are not planted in the summer remain in the greenhouse for another season.
Other Comments: Sparcely stemmed and perfect for a wildflower garden.


Schultz, Jan; Beyer, Patty; Williams, Julie. 2001. Propagation protocol for production of Container (plug) Cornus alternifolia L.f. plants USDA FS - Hiawatha National Forest Marquette, Michigan. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2020/08/11). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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