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Alnus serrulata (Smooth Alder)

Smooth Alder, Hazel Alder, Brookside Alder, Tag Alder, Common Alder, Black Alder, Alnus incana var. serrulata, Alnus noveboracensis, Alnus serrulata var. subelliptica

Alnus serrulata, Smooth Alder, Hazel Alder, Brookside Alder, Tag Alder, Common Alder, Black Alder,, Deciduous Shrubs, Fall color, Yellow catkins

Most attractive, Alnus serrulata (Smooth Alder) is a large, spreading deciduous shrub or small tree of pyramidal habit with a densely branched canopy. Its multi-stemmed trunks are covered with shiny gray-brown bark. The foliage of undulating, elliptic to obovate, glossy green leaves, 2-4 in. long (5-10 cm), turns yellow-brown in the fall. In early to mid-spring, long, pendant, pale yellow male catkins, 4 in. long (10 cm), dangle like Christmas decorations near the bare branch tips. The catkins release clouds of pollen that attract bees and other insects. Inconspicuous female flowers in the form of tiny red-purple tassels bloom in clusters at the twig tips. They are followed by small, dark brown, fruiting cones, 1 in. long (2.5 cm), containing winged seeds (nutlets). Resembling miniature pine cones, they persist on the twigs for up to a year for a unique and lovely display – to the delight of birds. Smooth Alder is a suckering plant forming thickets that become an effective choice for erosion control. Adaptable to drier soils as well as flooding, it is a great plant for naturalizing along stream banks, rivers, or pond margins. Smooth Alder fixes nitrogen and thus serves as a nutrient-giving pioneer in reclamation projects. An intermediate source of food for wildlife, Alders support 255 species of caterpillars as well as many sawfly larvae. This allows a grove of Alder to provide food and shelter for wintering birds, breeding birds, and migrant birds.

Smooth Alder is a favored destination for a diverse range of bird species, including thrushes, waxwings, wood warblers, finches, mockingbirds, pine siskins, goldfinches, sparrows, redpolls, crossbills, bluebirds, and chickadees. Its seeds and buds hold particular allure for these avian visitors, making Smooth Alder an essential feature in any bird-friendly habitat.

  • Grows up to 10-20 ft. high (3-6 m) and 12-15 ft. wide (3-5 m).
  • Performs best in full sun in moist to wet soils. Tolerates some shade, but full sun is best. Tolerates clay soils, poor soils, and seasonal flooding.
  • Great choice along ponds and streams and other moist to wet areas of the landscape, including bog gardens, rain gardensswamp borders, or wet meadows.
  • No serious pest or disease issues. Keep an eye out for canker, powdery mildew, leaf curl, aphids, leaf miners, tent caterpillars, lace bugs, and flea beetles.
  • Propagate by seed. Seeds could be planted immediately after harvest, but stratification improves germination.
  • Native to eastern North America and can be found from western Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick south to Florida and Texas.

Requirements

Hardiness 4 - 9
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Plant Family Betulaceae
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 10' - 20'
(3m - 6.1m)
Spread 8' - 15'
(240cm - 4.6m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average, High
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Moisture Retentive, Poorly Drained
Characteristics Showy, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma
Tolerance Clay Soil, Wet Soil
Attracts Bees, Birds
Garden Uses Bog Gardens, Ponds And Streams, Rain Gardens
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
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Recommended Companion Plants

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Button Bush)
Ilex decidua (Possumhaw)
Betula nigra (River Birch)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 4 - 9
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Plant Family Betulaceae
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 10' - 20'
(3m - 6.1m)
Spread 8' - 15'
(240cm - 4.6m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average, High
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Moisture Retentive, Poorly Drained
Characteristics Showy, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma
Tolerance Clay Soil, Wet Soil
Attracts Bees, Birds
Garden Uses Bog Gardens, Ponds And Streams, Rain Gardens
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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