Alnus crispa : Green Alder


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Genera: Alnus (Alders) (Ancient Latin name for Alder. Origin and meaning unknown.)

Species: crispa (Lat. crispus=curled or wrinkled; referring to the leaves.)

English Name(s):

Green Alder, Mountain Alder

First Nation Names:

K'oh (Red Willow)



  • Plants are monoecious(bi-sexual).
  • Medium to large shrub.
  • Ascending to brushy, up to 3m high.
  • Branches glandular (with glands) and sticky when young, becoming glabrous (smooth) with age.


Reproductive Parts:

  • Flowers imperfect (single gendered) in catkins.
  • Male flowers with 4 stamens.
  • Female catkins 8-20 mm long, 7-12mm wide, on long slender pedicel (stalk) in groups of 3-8.


  • Fruit are numerous small single seeded nutlets.
  • Fruiting catkins maturing hard, woody, cone-like and persistent (not falling off).
  • Nutlets broadly winged.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • A. incana which can be distinguished by its sharply double-serrulate (twice serrated) leaves, and its cones (fruiting catkins) on short pedicels (stalks).



  • Caution: Alnus pollen may cause hay fever, or bronchial asthma in some sesitive folk.
  • Alders have nodules on thier roots that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. When an alder rots, this nitrogen is added to the soil.
  • These plants are wind pollenated. Thier pollen grains are so small (0.03mm) they can float long distances on a slight breeze.

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Catkins appear before the leaves.
  • leaves deciduous.
  • Leaves appearing at almost the same time as catkins come into flower.


Animal Uses:

  • Bark is chewed by hares and beavers.
  • In winter nutlets eaten by many song birds.
  • Their buds and twigs make up an important part of the food of ptarmigan and grouse.


  • Inducate presence of water.
  • Forming thickets on stream banks, mountain slopes, in woods, and on tundra.
  • Very common




  • Bark use used for dye. Alone it gives a brown colour; ice-green to orange with alum mordant; grey-brown with copper mordant.
  • Wood burns very hot.
  • Wood is soft and fine grained, stains well, developes a nice red tinge with age, used for carving,


  • An infusion of the bark is used as a gargle fortreating sore throat, poor circulation, diarrhea and eye problems.
  • Bark (outer & inner) is astringent and powerfully bitter.
  • Bark 3.5g boiled in 250ml vinegar is a good remedy for lice. This also makes an excellent mouth wash when diluted with equal parts water.
  • Bark is dried and aged for several weeks, then powdered. 30ml powdered bark is mixed with 250ml brown apple cider and 5ml is taken 3 times a day to relieve constipation.
  • Leaves applied directly to bare feet in shoes helps with blisters, burning and aching.
  • Leaves are used to relieve inflammation.
  • Leaves in decoction have been used to soak sore feet.


  • Buds can be eaten.
  • Inner-bark can be dried and ground into flour, or chewed as a survival food.

Traditional Gwich'in:



    • Bark boiled makes a soluting used to dye hides, skins, snowshoe frames, and fish nets. Hides were soaked for about a day to dye them red.
    • Inner bark was made into a pulp and rolled up in a wolverine or beaver skin to make it soft.
    • Traditionally used just Alder wood for smoking fish.



      • Buds and green cones can be chewed and the juice swallowed. This is good juice and good for colds.

      Traditional Other:


      • In Europe was considered a spirit-haunted tree, and when cut it may begin to , bleed, weep or even speak.


      • Branches are used in mountains where other wood is scarce for building semi-circle dome shelters. Plant one end of the branches in the ground in a circle. Bend and tie the tops together. Cover dome.
      • Green wood with bark removed, is good for smoking meats and fish. It is said to impart a pleasent flavour to the food.


      • Bark decoctions were used to relieve cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, to aid circulation, sooth stomach ache, ease childbirth, stop bleeding, and also to treat eye problems.
      • Leaves were moistened with warm milk and used as a poultice to relieve external swellings and inflammation or somtetimes used alone.
      • Twig decoctions were drunk as a remedy for impure blood.



        Catkins; male small, female large.

        Leaves with serrulate (serrated) margins

        Fruiting catkins (cones) on long pedicels (stalks)

        Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

        Range Maps

        World Range: Amphi-berengian; Boreal N.A. from West Greenland to AK north to Arctic coast, South to CA, MN, NY and NC.

        Prov/State Abrev. List

        In Yukon: Common; Found throughout the territory.

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