Two Wonderful Shade-Tolerant Native Specimens

Every landscape could use a specimen plant, either anchoring a house foundation or being the focal point in a designed or natural landscape.

Two of my favorite plants that are large shrub/small tree sized to showcase as specimens are Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) also
called Alternative Leaved Dogwood, and American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia). Both are good choices for north eastern States.

Pagoda Dogwoods have a great horizontal branching habit in whorls, creating layers or levels. White, four parted flowers emerge in late May and cover the tree. A favorite of emerging insects, the flowers will be sought out by small native bees and wasps.

Pagoda Dogwoods can reach heights of close to 25 feet. They are fairly fast growing in loamy or mesic soils in part shade, slower in drier sites. Older trees are often multi-stemmed, with the lower branches thinned from herbivore browsing.

Pagoda Dogwoods grow locally here in central Minnesota in oak woodland understories, tolerating a lot of shade. They can also be found in more open sites at the edges of woodlands.

American Bladdernut is smaller in size, reaching heights around 15 feet. It also flowers early in the spring in mid May. The small bell shaped flowers hang downwards in clusters from the branches.

American Bladdernut is more upright in form, with leaves divided into 3 leaflets - an arrangement similar to Poison Ivy with the center leaf having a longer petiole. Young Bladdernut seedlings can be mistaken for Poison Ivy.

An interesting 3 parted bladder forms in late June and remains throughout the summer browning in color as it dries. The seeds develop in each section of the bladder.

The bark is also an interesting feature on this native. Chocolate brown in color with white vertical streaks. Bladdernut is multi-stemmed and does sucker new shoots around the base.

It grows locally along parts of the Minnehaha Creek watershed, and I have been told also near the Minnehaha falls.

An easy way to identify it during the winter months besides the bark and form is the large oppositely arranged buds.

American Bladdernut is also an understory shrub of moister lowland sites and also found in drier upland sites, often near water. It can tolerate a lot of shade under mature hardwood trees but also does well in sunnier sites with adequate moisture.

It is fairly fast growing too, in loamy soils it will double in size in 2 to 3 years.