Herbs & Plants

Cornus alternifolia

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Botanical Name : Cornus alternifolia
Family: Cornaceae
Genus: Cornus
Subgenus: Swida
Species: C. alternifolia
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Cornales

Synonyms : Swida alternifolia.

Other Names:Green Osier, Alternateleaf dogwood, Alternate Leaf Dogwood, Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood, Green Osi

Habitat :Cornus alternifolia is 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 .
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.

Cornus alternifolia is a small deciduous tree growing to 25 feet (rarely 30 feet) tall, with a trunk up to 6 inches 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 long and 1-2 inches 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 topside of the leaves are smooth and green, while the undersides are hairy and a bluish color. Its bark is colored gray to brown. It becomes ridged as it ages. C. alternifolia produces small cream colored flowers with four small petals. The flowers are grouped into cymes, with the inflorescences 2-5 inches across. It bears fruit similar to berries with a blackish blue color. These fruits grow 3-4 inches across.

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*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, one-third inch across, tipped with remnant of style which rises from a slight depression; nut obovoid, many-grooved. October

Landscape Uses:Specimen, Woodland garden. An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any soil of good or moderate fertility[1], ranging from acid to shallow chalk. Grows well in heavy clay soils and in dry soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade. Plants are hardy to about -25°c. A fast-growing but short-lived species in the wild, it is closely related to C. controversa. This species is unusual in having alternate leaves whilst almost all other members of this genus have opposite leaves. Plants have a thin bark and this makes them susceptible to forest fires. There is at least one named form selected for its ornamental value. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in an outdoors seedbed if there is sufficient seed. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 – 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more. Prick out the seedlings of cold-frame sown seeds into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the plants on for their first winter in a greenhouse, planting out in the spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. High percentage. Layering of new growth in June/July. Takes 9 months.

Medicinal Uses:
Cornus alternifolia was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who valued it particularly for its astringent bark which was used both internally and externally to treat diarrhea, skin problems etc. The inner bark was boiled and the solution used as an enema and this solution was also used as a tea to reduce fevers, treat influenza, diarrhea, headaches, voice loss etc. It was used as a wash for the eyes.  A compound infusion of the bark and roots has been used to treat childhood diseases such as measles and worms. It has also been used as a wash on areas of the body affected by venereal disease. A poultice of the powdered bark has been used to treat swellings, blisters etc. Useful in diarrhea and dysentery; as gargle in sore throats; and in typhoid fever and ague.  It is little used in modern herbalism. Preparation: The fresh bark and young twigs are pounded to a pulp and macerated in two parts by weight of alcohol.

Other Uses:
Ornamental use:
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 and of intensely disagreeable aromatic flavor.

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 incidence of this pathogen.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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