Red Alder: Among the First to Bloom in Winter | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

Red Alder: Among the First to Bloom in Winter

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 @ 6:50 a.m. / Featured Image

Image: Cheryl Lisin

Do you know what an Alder tree looks like? Cheryl Lisin, our native plant specialist, tell us:

Alders are one of the first plants to bloom in winter.  You can see the orange-brown catkins hanging down from bare branches, a beautiful sight all winter long.  The catkins are the male flowering structure, and release pollen to fertilize the female cones. The cones persist on the trees and in the fall, the winged seeds are dispersed. The alder that grows in our [coastal] area is the red alder, Alnus rubra, and has red inner bark and roots. Growing along streams, seeps, and springs, this fast growing tree needs plenty of water. You can see the red roots growing right out into the water in streams.

Alder groves are a stunning sight, with their pale, almost white trunks  mottled with black, growing tall up to their interlocking crowns. Red alders are in the family Betulaceae, along with birch and hazelnut. Since alder roots produce nitrogen, they are a pioneer species, that is, one of the first plants to come into an area after fire, flood, clearcut or other major disturbance.  On disturbed sites, they can grow away from water and are short-lived, as they enrich the soil, making way for other species to move in and crowd them out.  


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