Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This shrub is 5-20' tall, forming multiple trunks and a densely branched crown that is often more broad than tall. Individual trunks are up to 4" across, gray to grayish brown, and relatively smooth; they lack conspicuous lenticels. Smaller branches and twigs are gray to light brown, smooth, and terete; young twigs are often pubescent, but they become glabrous with age. Young shoots are light green, terete, and pubescent. Alternate leaves occur along the young twigs and shoots. These leaves are 2-5" long and 1¼-3½" across; they are obovate or broadly elliptic in shape, while their margins are finely serrated and often slightly wavy. The upper leaf surface is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower leaf surface is medium green and glabrous to sparsely pubescent. When pubescence occurs on the lower leaf surface, it is usually concentrated along the central vein. Leaf venation is pinnate with 8 or more pairs of lateral veins that are relatively straight. The petioles are ¼-1" long, light green, and pubescent. This shrub is dioecious, producing male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on separate catkins. Immature catkins are present during the fall and persist through the winter in a dormant state. During the blooming period, drooping male catkins occur in clusters of 2-5 near the tips of the branches. The male catkins are 2-4" long, narrowly cylindrical in shape, and brownish yellow. Each flower male consists of a lobed calyx and stamens (about 4), but lacks petals. Several male flowers are grouped together behind each floral scale of the male catkin. The female catkins occur in clusters of 2-5 at the tips of twigs, where they are usually more or less erect. During the blooming period, each female catkin is about ¼" long and either red or purple. Each female flower consists of a naked ovary with a pair of styles; it has neither petals nor a significant calyx. A few female flowers are grouped together behind each floral scale of the female catkin. The blooming period occurs during early to mid-spring before the vernal leaves develop. The catkins are cross-pollinated by the wind. Afterwards, the female catkins become cone-like fruits about ½-¾" long, and their scales become dark brown and woody. At the base of each scale, there is a single nutlet about 2-3 mm. long that is obovoid in shape, flattened, and narrowly winged. The nutlets are distributed to some extent by either wind or water. The woody root system is spreading and shallow.
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Description

Smooth alder is a nitrogen-fixing, thicket-forming shrub or small tree with dark, green foliage. It is a U.S. native. It is suitable for streambank stabilization because of its flexible stems and fibrous root system. A mature height of 8-12 feet may be reached in 10 years. Seed is produced in small cones with pollen contributed by birch-like catkins which bloom in mid-to late March. Compared to other alder species, smooth alder is more densely branched and produces more seed. Alders produce nitrogen for themselves by the activity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria located in root nodules. For this reason, it is not recommended for planting in areas where additional nitrogen might add to water quality problems. Smooth alder has about 400,000 seeds per pound.

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Alternative names

hazel alder

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Brookside Alder occurs in southern Illinois, where it is occasional, while elsewhere in the state it is absent (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the NW range limit of this species. Habitats include rocky streambanks at the bottom of sandstone ravines and canyons, swamps, fens, and edges of lakes. This alder has a more southern distribution than other native alders (Alnus spp.) within the state.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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N.S., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Miss., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va.
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Distribution and adaptation

Smooth alder is native to the northeast. It occurs from southern Maine to northern Florida, west to southeastern Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois. It grows best in wet bottomlands and stream margins, however it will also grow in well-drained upland areas. It is moderately shade and acid tolerant, but is weak-wooded and susceptible to wind and ice damage.

For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Website.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Shrubs , open to rather densely ascending, to 10 m. Bark light gray, smooth; lenticels small, inconspicuous. Winter buds stipitate, ellipsoid to obovoid, 3--6 mm, apex mostly rounded; stalks 2--4 mm; scales 2, equal, valvate, moderately to heavily resin-coated. Leaf blade broadly elliptic to obovate, 5--14 × 3.5--8 cm, leathery, base broadly to narrowly cuneate, margins flat, serrulate, without noticeably larger secondary teeth, apex obtuse to rounded; surfaces abaxially glabrous to moderately villous, slightly to moderately resin-coated. Inflorescences formed season before flowering and exposed during winter; staminate catkins in 1 or more clusters of 2--5, 3--8.5 cm, stamens 4; pistillate catkins in 1 or more clusters of 3--5. Flowering before new growth in spring. Infructescences ovoid-ellipsoid, 1--2.2 × 0.6--1.2 cm; peduncles 1--3(--5) mm. Samaras obovate, wings narrower than body, irregularly elliptic or obovate, leathery. 2 n = 28.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Betula serrulata Aiton, Hort. Kew. 1: 338. 1789; Alnus noveboracensis Britton; A. rubra Desfontaines ex Spach; A. rugosa (Du Roi) Sprengel var. serrulata (Aiton) Winkler
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Type Information

Isotype for Alnus serrulata f. nanella Fernald
Catalog Number: US 2003498
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): M. L. Fernald & J. B. Lewis
Year Collected: 1944
Locality: West Falls Church, Fairfax, Virginia, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Fernald, M. L. 1945. Rhodora. 47: 360.
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Isotype for Alnus serrulata var. subelliptica Fernald
Catalog Number: US 2050844
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): M. L. Fernald & H. H. Bartlett
Year Collected: 1906
Locality: Tewsburry., Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Fernald, M. L. 1945. Rhodora. 47: 358.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Brookside Alder occurs in southern Illinois, where it is occasional, while elsewhere in the state it is absent (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the NW range limit of this species. Habitats include rocky streambanks at the bottom of sandstone ravines and canyons, swamps, fens, and edges of lakes. This alder has a more southern distribution than other native alders (Alnus spp.) within the state.
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Stream banks, ditches, edges of sloughs, swampy fields and bogs, and lakeshores; 0--800m.
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Dispersal

Establishment

For streambank stabilization, smooth alder is best established as a bare-root or containerized seedling planted two feet apart within rows with rows two feet apart. It may be incorporated into a soil bioengineering system by planting at the toe of the bank just above any toe stabilization measures such as rip-rap, coir (coconut) logs, or fascines. On non-erosive streambanks it may be planted in two rows to provide toe protection. If this alder is planted for wildlife habitat improvement or wetland mitigation, planting should be done at a 5-10 foot spacing to allow for crown development and to optimize seed production.

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Associations

Faunal Associations

Alders (Alnus spp.) are host plants of beetles, aphids, moth caterpillars, and other insects. Examples include wood-boring larvae of the beetles Saperda obliqua (Alder Borer) and Xylotrechus quadrimaculatus (Birch & Beech Girdler), various leaf beetles (Calligrapha spp., Chrysomela spp.), Altica ambiens (Alder Flea Beetle), Corythucha pergandei (Alder Lace Bug), Prociphilus tesselatus (Woolly Alder Aphid), Psylla floccosa (Cottony Alder Psyllid), Eriocampa ovata (Woolly Alder Sawfly), and caterpillars of such moths as Aethalura intertexta (Four-Barred Gray), Pero hubneraria (Hubner's Pero), and Venusia comptaria (Brown-Shaded Carpet). Because alders frequently attract woolly aphids and similar insects, the carnivorous caterpillars of an unusual butterfly, Fenisca tarquinius (Harvester), can be found on these shrubs. These caterpillars feed on woolly aphids. For a more complete list of these insect species, see the Insect Table. Among vertebrate animals, the seeds, buds, or catkins of alders are eaten by such birds as the Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, White-Winged Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. The extinct Passenger Pigeon also fed on the catkins. Because Brookside Alder is often a densely branched shrub, it provides cover and nesting habitat for the American Woodcock, Rusty Grackle, and other birds. Mammals use alder shrubs in various ways. The Woodland Jumping Mouse (Napaeozapus insignis insignis) feeds on the seeds, while White-Tailed Deer browse on the foliage and twigs. Beavers feed on the bark and wood, and use the small trunks and branches of these shrubs in the construction of their lodges and dams.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering early spring.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Alnus serrulata

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Alnus serrulata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

At present only common smooth alder is available from commercial and state nurseries.

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Very little maintenance is needed except replacing dead plants and keeping debris from inhibiting growth.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is partial sun or light shade, wet to moist conditions, and an acidic soil that is rocky, gravelly, or sandy. The root system fixes nitrogen in the soil and it reduces erosion along streambanks.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Uses

Smooth alder is used predominantly for streambank stabilization and wetland restoration. It is also a critical cover component of woodcock habitat.

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Wikipedia

Alnus serrulata

Alnus serrulata, the hazel alder or smooth alder, is a thicket-forming shrub in the family Betulaceae. It is native to eastern North America and can be found found from western Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick south to Florida and Texas.

Description[edit]

Alnus serrulata leaves (detailed)
Alnus serrulata seed cones (detailed)

Alnus serrulata is a large shrub or small tree that may grow up to 2.5–4 m (8–12 ft) high and 15 cm (6 in) in diameter. The scientific name originates from alnus which is an old name for alder; serrulata points to the finely-toothed leaf margins which it possesses. It takes about 10 yrs to mature. The plant prefers moist soil near streams, pond margins, and riversides. It usually has multiple stems from its base and reddish-green flowers. The broad, flat, dark green leaves are about 2 to 4 inches long.

Leaf: The simple, round leaves are obovate, 2 to 5 in long, 1.2 to 2.8 in wide, obtuse, wider at middle, and V-shaped base. Veins are pinnate and conspicuous. Leaves have a smooth texture above and hairy texture below. The upper side of the leaves are dark green and the undersides are pale green.

Flower: The flowers are monoecious, meaning that both sexes are found on a single plant. Male (Staminate) catkins are 1.6-2.4 in long; female (Pistillate) catkins are 1/2 in long. Reddish-green flowers open in March to April.

Fruit: The ovate, dark brown, cone-like fruit is hard with winged scales. Seeds are produced in small cones and do not have wings. Fruit usually matures during fall and is quite persistent.

Twig: The twigs are reddish-brown and have a 3-angled-pith; young twigs are covered with hairs.

Bark: The bark is brownish gray, smooth, and has a bitter and astringent taste.

   

Distribution[edit]

Alnus serrulata is mainly located in eastern North America. It ranges from Maine to Northern Florida, west to southeastern Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois. It also grows along the Mississippi river. It is not present in northern New Hampshire and Vermont.

Taxonomy[edit]

The scientific name of Smooth Alder is Alnus serrulata (Aiton) Willd., synonymous with Alnus noveboracensis Britton, Alnus rubra Desfontaines ex Spach, Alnus rugosa (Du Roi) Sprengel, Alnus rugosa (Du Roi) Sprengel var. serrulata (W. Aiton) H. Winkler, Alnus serrulata (W. Aiton) Willdenow var. subelliptica Fernald, and Betula serrulata W. Aiton. It has English common names including common alder, tag alder, hazel alder, and smooth alder.

Cultivation[edit]

Alnus serrulata can be found in a habitats such as stream streambanks, riversides, and swamps. Water use is high and it requires sun or part-sun. It also requires moist soil that has a PH of 6.8-7.2. Alnus serrulata needs 5–10 foot spacing in wildlife habitat.

Uses[edit]

Because the plant resides in riversides or stream streambanks, it usually functions as a stabilizer and restorer for those habitats. It is also used to treat astringent, diuretic, emetic, ophthalmic, and purgative symptoms. A tea made from the bark is said to work as a treatment for diarrhea, coughs, toothaches, sore mouth, and the pain of birth.

References[edit]

1. Seiler, John R., Jensen, Edward C., and Peterson, John A.. "Alnus Serrulata Fact Sheet." VT Forest Biology and Dendrology. Virginia Tech. Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, 2010. Web. 9 May 2011. <http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=8>.

2. Mohlenbrock, Robert H. "Plant Fact Sheet." USDA. USDA NRCS PLANTS, 30 Jan. 2002. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. <http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_alse2.pdf>.

3. Tenaglia, Dan. "Alnus Serrulata Page." Missouri Flora Web Page. Missouriplants, 8 Feb. 2007. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.missouriplants.com/Catkins/Alnus_serrulata_page.html>.

4. Seton, Ernest Thompson. "Betulaceae." The Forester's Manual; Or, The Forest Trees of Eastern North America ... 10th ed. Vol. 9. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page &, 1912. 57. Print.

5. Fergus, Charles, and Amelia Hansen. Trees of New England: a Natural History. Guilford, CT: FalconGuide, 2005. 4. Print.

6. Seton, Ernest Thompson. The Book of Woodcraft. Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub., 1921. 383. Print.

7. Tatnall, Robert Richardson. Flora of Delaware and the Eastern Shore; an Annotated List of the Ferns and Flowering Plants of the Peninsula of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. [Wilmington]: Society of Natural History of Delaware, 1946. 99. Print.

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Notes

Comments

Primarily an Atlantic coastal species, Alnus serrulata also grows along the St. Lawrence river system and the lower Great Lakes westward to the dunes of southern Lake Michigan, and across the southern states to the Gulf Coast and east Texas. Alnus serrulata was erroneously called A . rugosa in a number of earlier floristic works (J. K. Small 1903, 1933; N. L. Britton and A. Brown 1896, 1913; and B. L. Robinson and M. L. Fernald 1908), and the mistake was perpetuated in both editions of Flora Europaea (T. G. Tutin et al. 1964--1980, vol. 1; 1993+, vol. 1). 

 Alnus incana subsp. rugosa hybridizes with A . serrulata (= Alnus serrulata var. subelliptica Fernald). Extensive hybrid swarms occur where the ranges of these species overlap, including the area along the St. Lawrence River and the southern edge of the Great Lakes (F. L. Steele 1961). R. H. Woodworth's conclusion (1929, 1930) that apomixis occurs in A . serrulata resulted from his use of material selected from a hybrid swarm. The remainder of the species appears to reproduce normally. The two species and their hybrids are usually easily distinguished by leaf shape and margin characters.

Various preparations of Alnus serrulata were used medicinally by Native Americans to alleviate pain of childbirth, as a blood tonic, an emetic and purgative, for coughs and fevers, to stimulate kidneys, to bathe hives or piles, for eye troubles, indigestion, biliousness, jaundice, heart trouble, mouth soreness in babies, and toothaches, to lower blood pressure, and to clear milky urine (D. E. Moerman 1986).

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