Alnus glutinosa

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 2 Professionals
Common Name: European alder
Type: Tree
Family: Betulaceae
Native Range: Europe, northern Africa, western Asia
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 40.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 40.00 feet
Bloom Time: March
Bloom Description: Reddish-brown (male), purple (female)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Air Pollution

Culture

Best grown in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates a wide range of soils, however, including dry, infertile ones. Best performace is in cool climates. Does not grow well south of USDA Zone 7. Suckers from the roots to form thickets. Prune from early to mid winter.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Alnus glutinosa, commonly called black alder (also common alder or European alder), is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that is distinguished by its gummy young twigs and leaves and its obovate to rounded, glossy dark green leaves (to 4” long) with doubly toothed margins and blunt to sometimes notched apices. As a single trunk tree, it typically grows to 40-60’ tall in cultivation (to 100’ or more in its native habitat) with a narrow pyramidal form. As a multi-trunked tree, it grows much smaller and spreads. It has naturalized in many parts of eastern North America, particularly along streams and in low or swampy sites. Flowers are monoecious. Drooping male catkins (to 4” long) form in fall and overwinter on the tree. Small, plump, rounded female catkins form in late winter to early spring. The catkins flower in March before the foliage emerges. After flowering, the female catkins develop into 3/4-inch long woody cones (strobiles), with winged seeds forming therein. The seeds disperse in fall at maturity, but the woody cones typically remain on the tree over winter and persist into the following growing season. Alders are easily identified in winter by the presence of the drooping male catkins and the woody cones, both of which are ornamentally attractive. Winter branches are often added to floral arrangements. Dark brown bark with warty striping gives rise to the black alder common name. No appreciable fall color. Nitrogen fixing microorganisms develop in nodules on the tree roots in somewhat the same manner as with the legumes.

Genus name is the Latin name for alder.

Specific epithet means sticky or glutinous for its gummy twigs and leaves.

Problems

Canker is the most severe disease problem. Watch for aphids, leaf miner, tent caterpillars lace bugs and flea beetles.

Garden Uses

A good selection for difficult sites such as moist low spots or dry sites with poor soils.