|Red Alder Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Alnus rubra|
|Origin||Pacific Northwest of North America|
|Shapes||Small cones (fruits) that are 2 to 2.5 cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm across.|
Red alder is a deciduous broadleaf tree reaching various heights from 20 to 30 m (66 to 98 ft.) tall when mature. These fast-growing trees often grow 1 meter per year until 20 years of age. The trees can live to 100 years of age with trunks from 36 to 46 cm in diameter. Red alder grows on cool and moist slopes; inland and at the southern end of its range it grows mostly along the margins of watercourses and wetlands. It occurs on a wide variety of soil types ranging from well-drained gravels and sands to poorly drained clay or organic soils. The best stands are found on deep, well-drained loams or sandy loams of alluvial origin. Stands also grow well on residual or colluvial soils of volcanic origin. Barks are thin, generally smooth, and greenish on young trees, turning grey to whitish with age. The inner bark and fresh wounds tend to turn deep reddish-orange when exposed to air and is usually covered with white lichen and moss as it ages. The inner bark is reddish brown. Branches are slender and spreading.
Alternately arranged leaves are dark green, simple and broadly ovate. The leaves are 6 to 15 cm long with a pointed tip. The leaf edges are serrated or softly lobed and slightly rolled under, giving a dark-green edging effect from the underside of the leaf. The undersides of the leaves are rusty colored and covered with fine soft hairs. The leaves turn yellow in the autumn before falling.
The flowers occur as either male or female clusters. Male flowers are in long, drooping, reddish catkins and hang in clusters of 2 to 5, and female flowers are in short, woody, brown cones borne at the ends of branchlets. Flowering normally takes place from March and April.
Fruits are small-scaled cones that are 2 to 2.5cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm across. Each cone contains from 50 to 100 seeds that are tiny flat nutlets.
Red Alder is native to the West coast of America, where it is also known as Oregon Alder. It was introduced to Britain in the late 1800’s. Like the rest of the Alder family, Red Alder has symbiotic bacteria living in nodules on its roots that improve the soil by releasing water-soluble nitrogen based compounds. Alders are particularly useful for quickly binding loose, rocky soil. Red Alder is the traditional wood for smoking salmon in America.
Traditional uses and benefits of Red Alder
- Decoction or extract is useful in scrofula, secondary syphilis and several forms of cutaneous disease.
- Inner bark of the root is emetic, and a decoction of the cones is said to be astringent, and useful in hematuria and other hemorrhages.
- When diarrhea, indigestion and dyspepsia are caused by debility of the stomach, it will be found helpful, and also in intermittent fevers.
- Bark is appetizer, astringent, cathartic, cytostatic, emetic, stomachic and tonic.
- Bark is used as an anodyne and febrifuge.
- An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of many complaints such as headaches, rheumatic pains, internal injuries and diarrhea.
- Externally the sap was applied to cuts and a poultice of the bark has been applied to eczema, sores, and aches.
- Catkins and young cones are astringent and have been chewed in the treatment of diarrhea.
- Native Americans used red alder bark 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.
- North American Indians used the bark to treat many complaints such a headaches, rheumatic pains, internal injuries, and diarrhea.
- The Salinan used an extract of the bark of alder trees to treat cholera, stomach cramps, and stomachaches.
- Bark infusions were taken as a laxative and to regulate menstruation.
- The Pomo boiled the bark in water to make a wash to treat skin irritations and sores.
- Bark poultices were applied to reduce swelling.
- Chewing the bark helped to heal sores and ulcers in the mouth.
- Twigs were made into infusions that served as liniments for sprains and backaches.
- Inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc.
- In addition, this powder is also combined with cereals for bread making.
- The sap has a sweet flavor and earlier it was frequently used for sweetening various foods.
- The trees extensive root system makes it suitable for controlling erosion along the banks of rivers.
- Tannin is obtained from the bark and the strobils.
- Both the roots and the young shoots have been used in making baskets.
- A red to brown dye is obtained from the bark.
- Wood is soft, brittle, not strong, light, close and straight-grained, very durable in water.
- Wood makes a good imitation mahogany and is used for cheap furniture etc.
- It makes a high grade charcoal.
- Aboriginal people used the bark for dyeing basket material, wood, wool, feathers, human hair, and skin.
- Red alder is used for flooring, and firewood.
- Red alder is used for furniture, cabinets, trim, paneling, plywood, pallets, veneer, writing paper, tissue paper, paper roll plugs, etc.
- The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest extracted a red dye from the inner bark, which was used to dye fishnets.
- Yellow dye made from red alder catkins was used to color quills.
- Its wood is used in fiber-based products such as tissue and writing paper.
- The Indians of Alaska used the hallowed trunks for canoes.
- Horses, cattle, sheep and goats browse on the leaves, twigs and buds of young alder trees.
- It is used for cabinetry and furniture making as well as a variety of other purposes including plywood, veneers, paneling, pulp, and firewood.
- The freshly harvested inner bark is emetic but is alright once it has been dried