Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood

Spring Color, Fall Color, Plus Winter Interest

Picture of Golden Shadow leaves in spring, when they contain some copper.
Picture of the leaves when they first appear in spring, showing a tinge of copper. David Beaulieu

Botanical Name for Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood:

Golden Shadows® is the brand name for this type of pagoda dogwood, the botanical name for which is Cornus alternifolia 'Wstackman.'

Plant Type:

Golden Shadows is, technically, a deciduous tree. While not listed as a dwarf tree, neither is it an especially tall tree. Its height is about right for an area where a specimen of a short or intermediate size is called for.

Characteristics:

This pagoda dogwood tree has green and gold variegated leaves (emerald-green to lime-green on the inside, gold on the outside). It grows to be 10-12 feet tall by 8-10 feet wide on average, at maturity, but you can easily maintain it in shrub form through a little pruning. Flat-topped clusters of white flowers appear in May or June, depending on where you live. Bluish-black berries follow.

Both new leaves and fall foliage tend to take on some reddish-purple, reddish-orange or coppery coloration that is quite different from the color the plant exhibits for the rest of the growing season. The branching pattern is marked by horizontality, which is why this plant has shrub-like tendencies, in spite of its classification as a tree.

Planting Zones for Golden Shadows, Geographical Origin of Pagoda Dogwoods:

Ironically, given a name ("pagoda") that summons images of the Orient, the Cornus alternifolia parent of the Golden Shadows is indigenous to eastern North America.

The suggested planting zones for this pagoda dogwood are 3-7.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Pagoda Dogwoods:

Grow Golden Shadows in a moist but well-drained loam that has an acidic soil pH for optimal performance, but the plant will also grow in clayey soil. Since its parent is an understory tree in the wild, dappled shade is this pagoda dogwood's preference.

Care:

Other than locating it in the right spot in the landscape to begin with given its size at maturity (see above), along with keeping its soil moist, growing this pagoda dogwood will add little to your landscape maintenance burden. Pruning is optional, but if you do prune (some people may wish to trim a little here and a little there to modify the shape slightly), do your pruning in late winter. Work compost into its soil to fertilize. This will also help the soil retain water, as will an application of mulch.

Uses in Landscaping, Alternative Type of Pagoda Dogwood:

When you're seeking a plant for shady areas (partial, open shade), consider Golden Shadows. With its brightly-colored variegated leaves, it could serve as a specimen plant for a woodland garden.

The cultivar 'Argentea' (the silver pagoda dogwood) is similar, except that its variegation involves a white margin (producing a silvery effect, overall) rather than a gold one.

Pagoda Dogwoods and Pests, Wildlife:

According to the USDA Forest Service, various types of birds eat the berries of pagoda dogwood (including the ruffed grouse), as does the black bear. In terms of pest problems, wild rabbit control may be necessary, depending on the region in which you live.

Moreover, pagoda dogwoods are not deer-resistant plants.

Outstanding Attributes:

Golden Shadows pagoda dogwood trees exhibit a layered, horizontal branching pattern and a flat crown, a structure that gives your landscaping a different look and that will be especially helpful in providing your yard with visual interest in winter. But most of all I value the coloration of the two-toned leaves, the gold edge of which is truly eye-catching. Both in spring and fall, the foliage color is splendid, but I like the spring leaf color best of all.

Origin of the Names:

The origin of the first part of the brand name "Golden Shadows" is obvious enough: the tree's trademark is its golden leaves. I'm guessing that the second part of the name derives from the fact that the tree is best grown in partial shade.

The common name "pagoda" dogwood is a reference to the horizontal branching pattern. The oriental structures known as "pagodas" are best known for having upward-curving roofs, a feature that accents horizontality.

The specific epithet in Cornus alternifolia 'Wstackman' translates as "alternate-leaf," a reference to the fact that the leaves occur alternately along the branches, not opposite each other. In fact, pagoda dogwoods are sometimes called, instead "alternate-leaf dogwoods," which might be a more descriptive common name, albeit a less poetic one. Walt Stackman is the breeder who discovered the tree, thus the 'Wstackman' part of the botanical name.

I have much more information on my website about Cornus for those interested. Please view my main article on dogwoods to research some of the other types available.