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Alnus acuminata - Kunth

Common Name Alder
Family Betulaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Grows well on steep mountain slopes at elevations between 1,000 metres in Costa Rica and 3,800 metres in Peru[418 ]. Common in the mountains, often forming almost pure, dense, extensive stands, but more often associated with oaks and often with pines[331 ].
Range S. America - Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, north through C. America to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Alnus acuminata Alder

Alnus acuminata Alder
wikimedia.org Frank R 1981


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Alnus acuminata is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Wind.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Alnus acutissima (Winkl.) Callier Alnus arguta (Schltdl.) Spach Alnus castaneifolia Mirb. Alnus ferruginea Kunth Alnus lanceolata Phil. Alnus lindenii Regel Alnus mirbelii Spach Alnus rufescens Liebm. ex Hemsl. Alnus spachii (Regel) Callier Betula arguta Schltdl.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiinflammatory  Antirheumatic

The bark and leaves have medicinal value, and have been used in the treatment of muscular and joint pain, rheumatism, skin infection, and as an anti-inflammatory[381 ]. The macerated leaves are used to treat joint and muscular pains, rheumatism and skin infections[299 ]. A leaf infusion is part of a cure for inflammation of the prostate[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

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Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
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Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Fodder  Fuel  Pioneer  Soil conditioner  Soil reclamation  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: A pioneer species that grows rapidly, needs light, and regenerates in open areas. It tolerates a wide range of climates and soils[381 ]. It can be used in reforestation projects at higher elevations in the Tropics[K ]. Both within its native range, as well as in other areas such as tropical Africa, the tree is increasingly planted for the reclamation of denuded sites, erosion control, soil improvement and in agroforestry systems. It is well suited for these purposes because of its rapid growth and tolerance to a wide range of soils and climatic conditions[299 ]. It has been used as a shade plant for coffee in Costa Rica for about 100 years[381 ]. Planting of this species in association with maize and corn can reduce the cost of planting these crops by up to 60%[381 ]. The agroforestry benefits of this species are not derived only from its nitrogen fixing capabilities but also because of the leaves, which recycle nutrients into the soil[381 ]. Other Uses: The inner bark yields tannin and dye[418 ]. A brown dye is obtained from the bark[331 ]. It is often used for cotton and other textiles[331[ The heartwood is cream-coloured, turning reddish upon exposure; it is not distinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight; the texture fine; lustre is medium; there is no distinctive taste or odour. The wood is light in weight; tough; strong; moderately durable in the open, durable when under water, and not resistant to insects. Easy to work with hand and power tools, it takes a good finish. It can be used for furniture, cabinetwork, coffins, boxes, interior construction, posts, plywood, carving, pulp etc[299 , 303 , 325 , 363 , 418 ]. A match company in Colombia evaluated 20 species and found this species to be the best suited for making match sticks[303 ]. The wood is used as a fuel[418 ]. A traditional firewood, it burns evenly and very well[303 , 381 ]. The calorific value is estimated at 19 250 kJ/kg[303 ]. The wood is also used to make charcoal[299 ]. The species is nitrogen fixing and the leaves are used as organic material in agricultural applications (as green manure) and as fodder material. The abundant wind-borne pollen is a valuable bee food supplement.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Agroforestry Services: Living trellis  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

A plant of higher elevations in the tropics, where it is generally found at elevations from 1,000 - 3,700 metres[418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 28c, though it can tolerate 4 - 34c[418 ]. Plants can withstand temperatures that dip briefly below 0c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 2,500mm, tolerating 1,000 - 3,500mm[418 ]. It is usually found in areas with a distinct dry season of 3 - 5 months[325 ]. Grows best in a sunny position, but can tolerate some shade[381 , 418 ]. Prefers deep, well-drained soils with high content of organic matter[303 ]. Succeeds in shallow soils[303 , 381 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 4.5 - 7[418 ]. A fast-growing tree, it can reach a height of 25 metres in 10 years[418 ]. Plants can commence flowering when just 4 - 5 years old from seed[303 ]. Plants reproduce freely on exposed bare-soil surfaces[418 ]. Trees respond well to coppicing[338 ]. Grown in rotations of about 20 years, the optimum annual yield of wood for fuel and industrial use is 10 - 15 cubic metres per hectare[381 , 418 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200 ]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is branching: a heart root, dividing from the crown into several primary roots going down and out [2-1].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Living trellis  Plants to physically support other crops.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a short viability and should be sown as soon as it is ripe[303 ]. It requires 10 - 20 days of cold stratification at 5°c in moist sand[325 ]. Sow the treated seed in a nursery seedbed, only just covering it. Germination should commence within 13 days. The seedlings can be planted out into their permanent positions when they are 30 - 40cm tall, usually about 4 - 6 weeks after germination[325 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Argentina (Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán); Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Colombia (Colombia (mainland)); Costa Rica (Costa Rica (mainland)); Ecuador (Ecuador (mainland)); El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras (Honduras (mainland)); Mexico (Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México Distrito Federal, México State, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tlaxcala, Veracruz); Panama; Peru; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of (Venezuela (mainland))

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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