Herb: Italian Alder
Latin name: Alnus cordata
Synonyms: Alnus cordifolia
Family: Betulaceae (Birch Family)
Description of the plant:
Habitat of Italian Alder:Very rarely self-sown in Britain, but not naturalised.
Other uses of the herb:An excellent windbreak for maritime areas, it grows quite quickly and establishes well even in very windy sites. Trees 5 years old from seed have reached 4 metres in height and are showing no signs of wind-shaping in a very exposed site in Cornwall. This is an excellent pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands on disused farmland, difficult sites etc. Its fast rate of growth means that it quickly provides sheltered conditions to allow more permanent woodland trees to become established. In addition, bacteria on the roots fix atmospheric nitrogen - whilst this enables the tree to grow well in quite poor soils it also makes some of this nitrogen available to other plants growing nearby. Alder trees also have a heavy leaf canopy and when the leaves fall in the autumn they help to build up the humus content of the soil. Alder seedlings do not compete well in shady woodland conditions and so this species gradually dies out as the other trees become established.
Propagation of Italian Alder:Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe and only just covered. Spring sown seed should also germinate successfully so long as it is not covered. The seed should germinate in the spring as the weather warms up. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. If growth is sufficient, it is possible to plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in pots outdoors and plant them out in the spring. If you have sufficient quantity of seed, it can be sown thinly in an outdoor seed bed in the spring. The seedlings can either be planted out into their permanent positions in the autumn/winter, or they can be allowed to grow on in the seed bed for a further season before planting them. Cuttings of mature wood, taken as soon as the leaves fall in autumn, outdoors in sandy soil.
Cultivation of the herb:Very rarely self-sown in Britain, but not naturalised.
Medicinal use of Italian Alder:None known
Known hazards of Alnus cordata:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.