Herb: Speckled Alder


Latin name: Alnus rugosa


Synonyms: Alnus incana rugosa


Family: Betulaceae (Birch Family)



Medicinal use of Speckled Alder:

The speckled alder was quite widely used medicinally by the native North American Indians who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little used in modern herbalism. The bark is alterative, astringent, emetic, laxative, ophthalmic, stomachic and tonic. The bark contains salicin, which probably decomposes into salicylic acid (closely related to aspirin) in the human body. This is used as an anodyne and febrifuge. The root bark was mixed with molasses and used in the treatment of toothache. A decoction of the inner bark was used as a wash for sore eyes. The outer bark is astringent and is applied as a poultice to bleeding wounds, it also reduces swellings.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
22 m
(72 feet)

Flovering:
May

Habitat of the herb:

Wet sandy or gravelly soils, usually along streams and rivers, but also in ponds and swamps. It is only found in open sunny areas, being unable to compete in dense shade.

Other uses of Speckled Alder:

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. The tree has an extensive root system and can be planted to control banks from erosion. A dark dye is obtained from the bark. Browns, through red to orange colours can be obtained from the bark. The wood is soft, weighing 29lb per cubic foot. The tree is too small to be of importance for lumber or fuel.

Propagation of the herb:

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 Speckled Alder:

Wet sandy or gravelly soils, usually along streams and rivers, but also in ponds and swamps. It is only found in open sunny areas, being unable to compete in dense shade.

Known hazards of Alnus rugosa:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.