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Alnus maritima Nutt.

Seaside Alder

"The alder, whose fat shadow nourisheth
Each plant set neere to him long flourisheth."

William Browne, ca 1613.

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Since in its narrower sense; this species has a very limited distribution (including one transplant in my back yard), there is little economic botany data on this species. Van Steenis has elected to include Alnus japonica as a synonym of Alnus maritime. He notes that it has been planted for reafforestation purposes on eroded slopes in the Philippines. Amerindians had a wide array of uses for alder, for dyestuffs, insect repellant or insecticide, but mostly for folk medicine. Fernald, Kinsey, and Rollins (1958) relate that "the inner bark is a possible emergency food. The young bark and winter buds are popular nibbles with country boys, not alone for their tolerable flavor, but particularly for the beautiful, olive-brown saliva produced." Bees use the pollen to rear their spring broods. None of these uses were specific to Alnus maritime.

Folk Medicine

According to Hartwell (1967–1970), the alders are used in folk remedies for cancers, indurations and/or tumors, especially of the breast, epithelium, duodenum, esophagus, face, lip, pancreas, pylorus, rectum, throat, tongue, and uterus. Reported to be astringent and depurative, closely related Alnus serrulata is a folk remedy for bruises, burns, diarrhea, eye, hematuria, malaria, poison ivy, scalds, sores, syphilis, and wounds (Duke and Wain, 1981). Erichsen-Brown (1979) lists many other uses of the alder; e.g. the Potawatomi Indians made a bark tea for flushing the vagina or to shrink hemorrhoids via rectal syringe. None of these are specific to Alnus maritima, just generic.


Alnus serrulata is said to contain a sedoheptulose.


Shrub or small tree to 10 m tall; bark light brown to reddish-brown, occasionally mottled with gray, with small orange-colored lenticels on younger branches. Twigs reddish-brown and glabrous in winter; buds ovoid, acute, about 6 mm long, with some pale pubescence. Leaves oblong, ovate, or obovate, 7.5–10 cm long, 3.7–5 cm wide, dark green above, glandular dotted below; margins remotely serrulate; tips acuminate or rounded; bases cuneate; petioles 12–18 mm long. Staminate aments green at first, becoming dark orange-brown, 3.75–6.5 cm long, pistillate catkins peduncled, 3 mm long at first, green tinged with red toward tip, enlarging the following spring, becoming broad-ovoid cones, 1.5–3 cm long; nutlets ovate to obovate, 3–4 mm long; wings narrow (Brown and Brown, 1972).


Reported from the American Center of Diversity, seaside alder, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate frost, poor soil, and some salinity and waterlogging. Alnus maritima "seems to be more affected by water stress and must be closer to a reliable source of water than Alnus serrulata to survive" (Stibolt, 1978). 2n = 28.


In the narrow sense, Alnus maritima occurs on the Delmarva Peninsula (four counties in Maryland, one in Delaware), two counties near the Red River in Oklahoma. "Because of its restricted range and susceptibility of the habitat to alteration by man's activities, Alnus maritima should be considered as threatened" as proposed in the Report on Endangered and Threatened Plant Species of the United States." (Stibolt, 1978). The peculiar disjunction DelmarvaOklahoma has been postulated by Reed (pers. commun.) to reflect Indian transplant, perhaps of a medicinal species. Perhaps they did not distinguish the species from other alders that they used.


Probably ranging from Warm Temperate Dry through Moist Forest Life Zones, seaside alder is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 9.5 to 40 dm, annual temperature of 13. 5 to 18°C, and pH of 6. 1 to 8. 1. Although the Oklahoma site has the higher annual temperature, it is subject to about the same number of freezes and thaws as the Delmarva sites. Generally restricted to damp or wet soils in sunny areas, most often at the edges of ponds, rivers, or streams. Perhaps due to their N-fixing ability, they can survive on N-poor soils. Mg levels ranged from 75–150 ppm, P2O5 from 5–14, K2O from 38 to 51, NO3 from 9–23, Ca from 561–1500, and soluble salts from 89–132 ppm. Aspiras (1981) states that it flourishes only in cooler parts of the Philippines, e.g. around Baguio at ca 1500–1800 m, annual precipitation ca 40 dm (164 in.) and annual temperature ca 18.5°C (64.8°F).


No data uncovered.


Can be harvested for fuel as needed.

Yields and Economics

Since this is proposed as a threatened or endangered species, there is little data on its productivity. Perhaps it or its hybrids with other alder species could equal the annual productivity of other alders now being considered for biomass or pulp production.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity of other Alnus spp. ranges from 5 to 26 MT/ha. Citing literature yields of 58–229 kg N/ha, Aspiras noted that Casuarina equisetifolia fixes 1,742 nmoles C2H4/24 hrs/g dry weight, compared to 4,479 for Casuarina rumphinia, 4,545 for Casuarina montana, 2,267 for Elaeagnus philippensis, 225 for Alnus maritima, 626 for Alnus nepalensis, 7,242 for Coriaria intermedia, and only 13 for Myrica javanica. According to Stibolt, when the nitrate concentration in the soil reaches a certain level, root nodulation is reduced and no net increase occurs (Stibolt, 1978). "The degree of nitrogen fixation in alder nodules usually exceeds that in legume nodules on a per weight basis." (Stibolt, 1978). Comparing Alnus serrulata, Stibolt found its nodules had higher nitrogenase activity, while Alnus maritima nodules had higher fixation rates some of the time. Twenty-four hours after collection, Aluns serrulata activitiy was reduced while that of Alnus maritima was retained longer or even increased. In spite of this Stibolt concluded that, overall "A. serrulata has some advantage in the ability to fix nitrogen.

Biotic Factors

No data uncovered.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update December 19, 1997