Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn.
European alder, Black alder
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
The wood, elastic and soft, fairly light and easily worked, is used for
cigarboxes, pumps, and wooden carvings, shoes and slippers. The bark, used for
tanning, imparts a hard red appearance to leather. The wood is also used in
making the molds for glass manufacture. The tree provides habitat and food for
wildlife, watershed protection, and is used in environmental forestry (Ag.
Handbook 450). With little ornamental value, it is recommended only for wet
According to Hartwell (19671971),
the leaves are decocted in folk
remedies for cancer of the breast, duodenum, esophagus, face, pylorus,
pancreas, rectum, throat, tongue, and uterus. The bark and/or roots are used
for cancers and inflammatory tumors of the throat. Reported to be alterative,
astringent, detersive, diuretic, sudorific, tonic, and vermifuge, black alder
is a folk remedy for cancer, fever, foot ailments, tumors, and worms (Duke and
Wain, 1981). The bark decoction is taken as a gargle for angina and
pharyngitis, as an enema in hematachezia.
The bark contains up to 20% tannin, a flavone glycoside of the
hyperoside type, a reddish dye, emodin (?), alnulin (C30H50O), protoalnulin
(C30H48O) phlobaphene, taraxerol, taraxerone, lupeol, b-sitosterol,
glutinone (C30H48O), and citrullin. The leaves contain alnusfoliendiolone,
3-b-hydroxyglutin-5-en, D-amyrenone, taraxerol, b-sitosterol, wax,
and sugars (List and Horhammer, 19691979). Gibbs (1974) reports l-ornithine
in the roots of this species, l-serine in the genus.
Shrub or small tree to 20 m, the bark initially gray-brown, smooth,
lustrous, later dark gray and rougher. Leaves rotund or broadly ovate to
ellipsoid or ovate, 49 cm long, 37 cm wide, basally rounded the petiole 12
cm long; stipules obtuse, soon deciduous. Male cones purplish brown in autumn
and winter, brown in the spring, 612 cm long, in clusters of 35. Fruits
rounded, the seeds winged. Seeds ca 700,000750,000/kg, but yielding only ca
2025,000 plantable seedlings.
Reported from the Eurosiberian Center of Diversity, black alder, or cvs
thereof, is reported to tolerate frost, poor soil, and waterlogging. Hortus
III lists var. barbata, denticulata, and glutinosa, as well as
several cvs 'Aurea', 'Imperialis', 'Incisa', 'Oxycanthifolial, 'Pyramidatis',
'Quercifolia', 'Rubrinervia', and 'Sorbifolia'. Wyman (1974) mentions
'Laciniata'. Alnus glutinosa serves as a rootstock for grafting of
other alder species.
Throughout the Caucasus, Europe, Siberia, into Asia Minor, Iran, and
North Africa. Naturalized locally in eastern Canada and Northeastern U.S.
Estimated to range from Warm Temperate Dry to Moist through Cool
Temperate Steppe to Wet Forest Life Zones, black alder is estimated to tolerate
annual precipitation of 4 to 20 dm, annual temperature of 8 to 14°C, and pH
of 6 to 8. Ranging north to Wyman's Zone 3.
Seeds which have remained viable after floating for 12 months, are sown
at depths of 36 mm, in spring or fall. For blanket bogs in England, spot
sowings have been recommended ca 15 seeds per spot fertilized with ca 60 g
phosphate. Seeds germinate as well under continuous darkness as with normal
day lengths. Air-dried seeds stored at 12°C retained their viability for
two years. Seeds can however be sown immediately as soon as ripe.
Timber and/or firewood harvested as needed, the shrub apparently
coppices readily. In the U.S., it flowers from March to May, the fruits
ripening in fall, natural dispersal occurring from late fall to early spring.
A 1318-year-old stand with ca 30,000 trees ha (ca 20% Alnus
glutinosa, the dominant, with Carpinus and Crataegus et al) in an infertile
gley at elevation 265 m had a basal area of 2440 m2/ha. The standing biomass
was about 59.3 MT/ha wood, bark, and branches, 2.8 MT leaves, and 4.3 MT
estimated roots. Leaf litterfall was ca 2.5 MT/ha/yr. A British stand
dominated by A. glutinosa (ca 1600 trees/ha, 55% Alnus, 44%
Betula pendula and Acer pseudoplatanus) had a basal area of ca 25
m2/ha, a leaf area index of 3.6, and a standing biomass of 109 MT/ha.
According to the phytomass files, annual productivity is estimated at 6
to 9 MT/ha. The tree has yielded 11.8 MT/ha/yr on pulverized fuel ash
(Dennington, et al, 1983). Kestemont (1975) estimated annual productivity at
8.66 MT/ha, with 5.87 MT in wood, bark, and branches, 2.79 MT in foliage.
According to Cannell, (1982), Hughes (1971) estimated the aerial productivity
at ca 6.7 MT/ha/yr with wood, bark, and branches accounting for 4.26 MT + 0.34
MT litter, 1.78 MT leaf and leaf litter, 0.34 MT fruit and fruit litter. NAS
(1980a) recommends the black alder for consideration for firewood plantations
in Tropical highlands where unseasonal cold might destroy the red alder.
Nitrogen-fixation by trees up to 8 years old has been put at 125 kg/ha/yr, for
20 years at 56130 kg/ha/yr (NAS, 1979). Related red alder has been estimated
to fix as much as 300 kg/ha.
Agriculture Handbook 165 lists the following diseases for Alnus
glutinosa: Phymatotrichum omnivorum (root rot), Polyporus
versicolor (sapwood rot), Septoria alni (leaf spot), and
Sphaeropsis alnicola (on twigs). Like other alders, the cv 'Laciniata'
is susceptible to a canker which can kill large parts of the plant quickly
(Wyman, 1974). Nematodes include Longidorus maximus, and
Pratylenchus penetrans (Golden, pers. commun. 1984).
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Agriculture Handbook 450. 1974. Seeds of woody plants in the United
States. Forest Service, USDA. USGPO. Washington.
- Cannell, M.G.R. 1982. World forest biomass and primary production data.
Academic Press, New York.
- Dennington, V.N., Chadwick, M.J., and Chase, D.S. 1983. Energy cropping on
derelict and waste land. J. Envir. Mgt. 16(3):241260.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Gibbs, R.D. 1974. Chemotaxonomy of flowering plants. 4 vols. McGill-Queens
University Press, London.
- Hartwell, J.L. 19671971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 3034.
- Hughes, M.K. 1971. Tree biocontent, net production and litterfall in a
deciduous woodland. Oikos 22:6273.
- Kestemont, P. 1975. Biomasse, necromasse et productivites aeriennes ligneuses
de quelques peuplements forestiers en Belguique. Thesis. Faculty of Sciences.
Free University of Brussels as cited in Cannell, 1982.
- List, P.H. and Horhammer, L. 19691979. Hager's handbuch der pharmazeutischen
praxis. vols 26. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
- N.A.S. 1979. Tropical legumes: resources for the future. National Academy of
Sciences, Washington, DC.
- N.A.S. 1980a. Firewood crops. Shrub and tree species for energy production.
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.
- Wyman, D. 1974. Wyman's gardening encyclopedia. MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc.,
Last update December 19, 1997