State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn.

  • Betula alnus var. glutinosa L.
  • Betula glutinosa (L.) Lam.
Vernacular Name
Common Alder, Black Alder, European Alder, Alder
Conservation status
No status defined
Value of species
Occurrence: Ag, Al, Au, Be, Br, Bt, Bu, By, Co, Cz, Da, Fe, Ga, Ge, Gr, Hb, He, Ho, Hs, Hu, It, Ju, Li, Lu, Ma, No, Po, Rf(C, CS, E, N, NW, S), Rm, Sa, Si, Su, Tcs, Tn, Tu(A, E), Uk(K, U), [Az] (EuroMed, 2018). A species of tree in the family Betulaceae, native to most of Europe, southwest Asia and northern Africa. It thrives in wet locations where its association with the bacterium Frankia alni enables it to grow in poor quality soils. It is a medium size, short-lived tree growing to a height of up to 30 metres (100 ft). It has short-stalked rounded leaves and separate male and female flower in the form of catkins. The small, rounded fruits are cone-like and the seeds are dispersed by wind and water. The common alder provides food and shelter to wildlife, with a number of insects, lichens and fungi being completely dependent on the tree. It is a pioneer species, colonising vacant land and forming mixed forests as other trees appear in its wake. Eventually common alder dies out of woodlands because the seedlings need more light than is available on the forest floor. Its more usual habitat is forest edges, swamps and riverside corridors. The timber has been used in underwater foundations and for manufacture into paper and fibreboard, for smoking foods, for joinery, turnery and carving. Products of the tree have been used in ethnobotany, providing folk remedies for various ailments, and research has shown that extracts of the seeds are active against pathogenic bacteria. The common alder is native to almost the whole of continental Europe (except for both the extreme north and south) as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. In Asia its range includes Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan, and in Africa it is found in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. It is naturalised in the Azores. It has been introduced, either by accident or by intent, to Canada, the United States, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Its natural habitat is in moist ground near rivers, ponds and lakes but it can also grow in drier locations and sometimes occurs in mixed woodland and on forest edges. It tolerates a range of soil types and grows best at a pH of between 5.5 and 7.2. Because of its association with the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Frankia alni, it can grow in nutrient-poor soils where few other trees thrive. The wood is soft, white when first cut, turning to pale red; the knots are attractively mottled. The timber is not used where strength is required in the construction industry, but is used for paper-making, the manufacture of fibreboard and the production of energy. Under water the wood is very durable and is used for deep foundations of buildings. The bark of the common alder has long been used in tanning and dyeing. It is also the traditional wood that is burnt to produce smoked fish and other smoked foods, though in some areas other woods are now more often used. It supplies high quality charcoal. The leaves of this tree are sticky and if they are spread on the floor of a room, their adhesive surface is said to trap fleas.
Book reference
  • Кузярін О.Т. Судинні рослини території торфовища "Білогорща” (м. Львів) // Наукові основи збереження біотичної різноманітності. - 2010. - Т.1(8), №1. - С.75-90.
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  • Alexander KUZYARIN, Dr, e-mail:

Taxonomic branch