European Black Alder – Alnus glutinosa

European Black Alder – Alnus glutinosa
Family Betulaceae – Alder, Birch, Hornbeam
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Alders are a key component in waterway soil-stabilization.

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European Black Alder foliage

European Black Alder, a native of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia was introduced to North America long ago, and has escaped from cultivation. It is often seen along bodies of water, where it may successfully self-sow and form pure stands. Today, it is grown as a shade tree in urban areas, or at wet sites (ponds, creeks, drainage ditches, etc.) where it thrives and provides both erosion control and ornamental appeal.

European Black Alder is adaptable to a wide range of favorable or harsh environmental conditions. It prefers moist to wet soils of variable pH that are rich and deep, but adapts to average or poor soils that are dry in summer. Growth is especially rapid in occasionally wet to permanently wet areas, such as floodplains , streambanks, and ditches.

European Black Alder - Alnus glutinosa
This European Black Alder was started from seed 25 years ago.

Alders have formed a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the genus Frankia. Nodules formed by Frankia on alders are huge and elaborate, as large as a human fist, with many small lobes. This circumstance puts alders in the happy company of plants (including, most notably, the legumes) able to harness atmospheric nitrogen for their own growth.

Alnus incana subsp. rugosa is an important shoreline and meadow colonizer in boreal and north temperate areas of the Canadian Shield, and a weedy successional species in damp areas along roadsides throughout its range. It overlaps in range and intergrades with A . incana subsp. tenuifolia to the west (in Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and with A . serrulata to the south. It is only slightly differentiated from the more treelike European A . incana subsp. incana . [2]

European Black Alder strobiles
Black Alder strobiles

Fertilized female flowers become cone-like, green fruits by late spring, and as they grow throughout the summer, they often weigh down the branches that support them. In autumn, the seeds are released as the cones open and the remaining  strobiles persist on the twigs.

European Black Alder bark


  1. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. GRIN"Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn."
  2. John L. Ingraham, March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen (Belknap Press, 2010).
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Family Betulaceae – Alder, Birch, Hornbeam
The birches have long been popular ornamental trees in North America, chiefly in the northern United States and Canada. Our specimens include river birch, Dahurian birch, paper birch, Arctic birch, Manchurian birch, Manchurian alder, downy birch, Japanese white birch, and 10 other species.
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