An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Speckled Alder in Winter

2-3-15 speckled alder 166Speckled Alder is a shrub in the Birch family that is found growing in wetlands. It is named after the “speckles” on its bark — horizontal lines or lenticels (spongy openings for the transfer of gases). In winter, Speckled Alder branches are distinctive because they carry two kinds of buds as well as last year’s fruit. The male flower buds are in the form of inch-long catkins which appear reddish in winter. They begin to turn yellow in March just before they extend into long, yellow pollen-bearing flowers. The female flower buds are small and drooping just ahead of the catkins on the branch. They look like miniature unopened versions of the seed-bearing fruit they’ll become. Last year’s woody fruit, or “cones” are also present, having opened and had their seeds, or winged nutlets, dispersed by the wind last fall.

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3 responses

  1. Gaylee Amend

    triptych indeed. G

    February 3, 2015 at 2:18 pm

  2. patty

    Love your posts! What types of birds or animals benefit from the alder fruit?

    February 4, 2015 at 11:17 am

    • Hi Patty,
      Alders are closely related to birches, so their seeds are quite similar and the birds that feed on birch catkins (redpolls, siskins and goldfinches) scarf up alder seeds.

      February 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

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