Stop 2 ALDER
The Common Alder sometimes known as the Black Alder or European Alder is a
deciduous tree native to Britain, Europe and SW Asia. Alders are water-loving plants
and are found on the banks of rivers and lakes.
They thrive in wet conditions and will grow on marshland with their roots fully
submerged. The bark of a mature tree is grey-brown and fissured. When fully grown
it can reach a height of 35m. The leaves are quite distinctive being broad and
rounded with the broadest part above the middle of the leaf. In January the male
catkins give a purple tinge to the crown. These are followed by the female catkins
which turn from purple to red. The fruits of the Alder look very similar to small
brown pine cones and are an attractive decoration to the tree in mid-winter. Like the
Pea family the roots of the Alder have nodules where nitrogen-fixing bacteria grow
which improve the fertility of the soil. Unlike most other woods alder does not rot in
water and in fact hardens over time. In the past alder was used to build jetties and
bridges, for example the supports for the Rialto Bridge in Venice and for many of the
buildings in Amsterdam.
Mythology and Folklore of the Alder
The Alder is associated with evil spirits, because of the reddish brown colour of the
wood, which appears to bleed when cut.
Stop 2 ALDER