Red Alder

Alnus rubra

Red alder
alder Catkins
Unisex Catkins --Note both male and Female
alder Catkins
No expansion -- see Female Catkins

The Red Alder tree is a merchantable hardwood species of tree found along the Pacific coast of North America largely sharing the same areas favored by the Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar. Like the Douglas Fir it is shade intolerant, but finds its niche in two ways. It starts very quickly and grows with extreme speed in the early years, and is often dismissed as 'brush' as it will shade out Douglas Fir in the early years. It's true home though is a place where Douglas Fir won't grow, and that is in wetlands, marshes and bogs. The Douglas fir is intolerant of standing water on its roots and requires well drained soils, however the alder thrives along streams and associated wet areas. It is common to find predominate Douglas Fir areas with Alder trees lining the stream banks although the alder will grow elsewhere particularly at lower elevations.

The Alder is well received at paper mills, and when sawed into lumber produces a strong, pitch free, light colored, light weight lumber particularly suitable for furniture frames. It also accepts a variety of stains well, and can be finished to look like a variety of other more expensive woods.

Though long dismissed by foresters as a 'trash tree', it's value as a forest product now is comparable to that of Douglas Fir, and certainly above that of hemlock.

The reproductive parts of the red alder are called 'catkins'. The longer one is the male flower and the short oval one is the female component. The latter will ripen into a seed bearing cone. The catkins emerge from a previous years growth while the leaves are developing. Indeed the leaf buds were just beginning to break when the photos on the left were taken in early spring.

- - Updated 12/20/2012
- - Updated 04/09/2009
- - Updated 05/22/2008