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Alnus - 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
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Alnus Alder


wikimedia.org
Alnus Alder
wikimedia.org Frank R 1981

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Alnus is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 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: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms

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.

Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

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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 ].

Other Uses

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.

Cultivation details

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 ].

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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

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Alnus acuminataAlder02
Alnus cordataItalian Alder00
Alnus glutinosaAlder, European alder , Common Alder, Black Alder03
Alnus hirsuta 00
Alnus incanaGrey Alder, Speckled alder, Thinleaf alder, White Alder00
Alnus japonicaJapanese Alder01
Alnus jorullensisMexican alder, Evergreen Alder00
Alnus maritimaSeaside Alder, Beach Alder00
Alnus maximowiczii 00
Alnus nepalensisNepalese Alder01
Alnus nitida 01
Alnus rhombifoliaWhite Alder12
Alnus rubraRed Alder, Oregon Alder22
Alnus rugosaSpeckled Alder02
Alnus serrulataSmooth Alder, Hazel alder02
Alnus sinuataSitka Alder11
Alnus tenuifoliaMountain Alder, Thinleaf alder12
Alnus viridis crispaAmerican Green Alder12

 

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Kunth

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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