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Speckled Alder “Cones”


Obviously there’s no fooling Naturally Curious readers! The trick part of yesterday’s Mystery Photo question was that the pictured fruit were not, botanically speaking, “cones” — true cones are found only on conifers, which Speckled Alder (Alnus incana) is not. The resemblance of Speckled Alder fruit to cones is marked (which is why they are referred to as “cones”) and there are many similarities between the two. They are both woody, contain seeds and develop from catkins (flowering spikes). However, the nature of their respective seeds is quite different. Angiosperms, or flowering plants such as Speckled Alder, produce seeds that are enclosed within a covering (the ovary), whereas gymnosperms (conifers) have un-enclosed or “naked” seeds. Alder “cones” open to release seeds in a manner similar to many conifer cones and, like most cones, do not disintegrate immediately after maturity. (Photo: female flowers/catkins of Speckled Alder which, if fertilized, will develop into “cones.”)

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6 responses

  1. David Porter

    Not sure if you have photographed alder tongues (could be another mystery photo). As you know they are galls produced the parasitic fungus Taphrina alni. Here are a couple of photos of different stages.
    David Porter

    December 16, 2016 at 10:04 am

    • Hi David, Thanks for mentioning them – you’re right, they’d be a great post subject. I have yet to photograph them (wordpress doesn’t allow your photos to come through) but I’m familiar with what the “tongues” look like and will keep an eye out for them. Many thanks!

      December 16, 2016 at 11:12 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    On a completely unrelated subject, do you think the bears have gone to bed? I’m thinking of leaving my feeders out at night and wondering if that will be safe.

    December 16, 2016 at 10:15 am

    • The latest sighting I’ve heard of is two weeks ago…I was visited by a bear this fall, and so didn’t leave my feeders out until a week or so ago, and they haven’t been touched which leads me to think hibernation has begun…at least around central Vermont. But I could be wrong!

      December 16, 2016 at 11:13 am

  3. Is this the same Alder that produces nutritious food for grouse and quail? Or is this a different specie?

    Am curious. As I would like to ‘feed’ the local birds nest my cabin:) wondering if this shrub would be a good choice for a damp , med. acid soil .

    Thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone


    December 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    • Yes, it would be good. It isn’t fussy about the soil, grows fast and many birds, including grouse consume its catkins and seeds.

      December 16, 2016 at 4:39 pm

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