How to identify an alder tree

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How to identify an alder tree

How do you identify an alder tree?

Wondering if you are looking at an alder tree? Your clues are their leaves, buds, catkins and cones. Here’s what they look like at-a-glance:

identifying alder leaves
alder tree buds
alder catkins
alder catkins

Alder tree facts

Hello! In today’s guide we are going to learn how to identify an alder tree. Are you ready? Let’s get started! Here are a few alder facts:

  • Common name: Alder – Common, European or black
  • Latin name: Alnus glutinosa
  • Family: Betulacea

Alder trees can grow up to 28 meters, live for up to 60 years and prefer to grow in cool, damp places like marshes, lakesides and riverbanks.

identifying alder leaves

Alder leaves

Alder leaves are identified by their rounded shape, leathery texture and indented tips.

alder tree buds

Alder buds

Their buds are rounded in shape and a soft, purple-pink colour.

alder catkins

Young alder cones and catkins

The young catkins are knobbly, chubby and oval (female) or short, stubby and laced all over with a black criss-cross pattern (male)

alder catkins

Mature alder cones and catkins

Mature catkins become small, woody cones (female) or soft, dangly and spotted with a red dotted pattern (male)

Alder tree uses

  • Medicinal – Alder is traditionally used for inflammation and healing
  • Dyes – Its catkins give green, cones give brown and bark gives a bright orange dye
  • Bushcraft – Because of their preference for moist soil, they indicate fresh water
  • Wildlife – Alder trees are a food source for several birds and a variety of moths
  • Industry – Instead of rotting, the more alder soaks, the harder it gets – great for canals
  • Environment – As a pioneer species, alder helps fix nitrogen into the soil
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