Botanical Name : Alnus crispa
Common Names: The common name alder is derived from an old Germanic root. Also found to be the translation of the Old French “verne” for alder or copse of alders. The botanic name Alnus is the equivalent Latin name. Both the Latin and the Germanic words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root el-, meaning “red” or “brown”, which is also a root for the English words elk and another tree: elm, a tree distantly related to the alders. In celtic mythology, Bran the Blessed is associated with the alder tree “The Alder deity is considered to be Bran the Blessed, God of the Underworld. He was also known as the God of Prophecy, Arts, War and Writing. With the size of a giant, it was impossible for Bran to fit in a house or in a boat. According to medieval Christian writings, Bran the Blessed is considered to be the first British man.”
Habitat :The genus comprises about 30 species of monoecious trees and shrubs, few reaching large size, distributed throughout the North Temperate Zone and in the Americas also along the Andes southwards to Argentina. Well-drained, moist soils along streams, in ravines and on moist hillsides in eastern forests; common on recently cut-over forest land; from lake country of Manitoba to eastern Saskatchewan and NW Ontario.
Alder leaves are deciduous (not evergreen), alternate, simple, and serrated. The flowers are catkins with elongate male catkins on the same plant as shorter female catkins, often before leaves appear; they are mainly wind-pollinated, but also visited by bees to a small extent. They differ from the birches (Betula, the other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are woody and do not disintegrate at maturity, opening to release the seeds in a similar manner to many conifer cones.
The largest species are Red Alder (A. rubra) on the west coast of North America and Black Alder (A. glutinosa), native to most of Europe and widely introduced elsewhere, both reaching over 30 m. By contrast, the widespread Green Alder (A. viridis) is rarely more than a 5 m tall shrub.
A tall and spreading shrub, 3 – 8 m tall; bark thin, dull, reddish to greyish brown, smooth or slightly grooved; twigs slender, yellowish green to reddish brown, coated with very short grey hairs; buds slender, stalked, covered with grey hairs.
Leaves - Opposite, simple, 6 – 8 cm wide, 3-lobed, end lobe triangular; coarsely and irregularly single-toothed; yellowish green above, with soft, whitish hairs below; stalk slender, reddish, usually longer than blade.
Flowers - : In dense upright clusters at branchlet tips; sexes in separate flowers usually in same flower cluster; flowers are small, pale yellowish green; appear after leaves in late May to early June.
Fruit – Samaras, often brilliant red; wings 2 -3 cm long, with acute angle (less than 90 degrees) between them; seed portion indented on 1 side; mature in late summer.
Can sometimes be confused with the Speckled Alder and shrub occurrences of the Paper Birch. The stalked cones of the Green Alder stand it apart from these species; the leaf margins with fine, regularly spaced teeth contrast with the coarsely, double-toothed leaf margins of the Speckled Alder and the leaves are less taper-pointed than those of the Paper Birch.
Medicinal Actions & Uses;
promotes clarity of perception on all levels; helps us integrate seeing with knowing so that we can recognize our highest truth in each life experience.
Alder bark contains the anti-inflammatory salicin which is metabolized into salicylic acid in the body. Native Americans used Red Alder bark (Alnus rubra) to treat poison oak, insect bites, and skin irritations. Blackfeet Indians used an infusion made from the bark of Red Alder to treat lymphatic disorders and tuberculosis. Recent clinical studies have verified that red alder contains betulin and lupeol, compounds shown to be effective against a variety of tumors
Alder is particularly noted for its important symbiotic relationship with Frankia alni, actinomycete filamentous nitrogen-fixing bacterium. This bacterium is found in root nodules which may be as large as a human fist, with many small lobes and light brown in appearance. The bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with carbon, which it produces through photosynthesis. As a result of this mutually-beneficial relationship, alder improves the fertility of the soils where it grows, and as a pioneer species, it helps provide additional nitrogen for the successional species which follow.
Alder catkins are edible and high in protein. Although they are reported to have a bitter and unpleasant taste, they are best remembered for survival purposes. Alder wood is also commonly used to smoke various food items.
Disclaimer: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.