Black Alder, Common Alder, European Alder, Aller, Whistle-Wood, Irish/Scottish Mahogany, Fearn (Gaelic), King of the Waters
Also common are Grey Alder (Alnus Incana), Red Alder (Alnus Rubra) and Green Alder (Alnus Viridis) amongst other species in the genus Alnus.
Alder is a mild astringent.
Common Alder is native to most of Europe, and is a hardy tree which can grow in damp or even boggy soil. It will keep its wide oval, serrated-edged leaves well into Autumn, and produces attractive male dark yellow-brown catkins from Autumn through to Spring.
Young leaves and buds on the Alder are slightly sticky with a resinous gum, giving this species the name Glutinosa. As the leaves age they lose their stickiness and become a rich glossy green.
As an astringent Alder is good for reducing swellings and curing sore throats. Place Alder leaves in your shoes before going on a walk to cool the feet and prevent swelling. As a more practical way to keep your whole home healthy, pick Alder leaves in the morning when the dew on them makes them sticky, and place around your home to capture fleas and other insect pests.
Associated with hiding and secrecy thanks to Alder woods providing a hiding place for Deirdre of the Sorrows of Irish mythology, and dye made from the flowers being used to colour the garments of outlaws like Robin Hood as well the clothing of fairies. Doorways to fairyland are supposedly concealed within its trunk.
Alder is also associated with protection and healing, divination and anything to do with the element of water. It may be used in rituals thatare about death or dying, as a way to protect the loved one concerned.
This is the traditional wood used for smoking salmon and other foods. Under water Alder wood is very durable, and it is used in the supports of many of the buildings of Venice. The bark of the Alder is used in tanning and dyeing, and in fact three different dyes can be obtained from the tree; red from the bark, green from the flowers and brown from the twigs.
Alder wood is also very popular for making charcoal, particularly for gunpowder. It is also used for making furniture, decoration, clogs and notably flutes and whistles – particularly for magical uses. Despite its popularity there were negative superstitions associated with Alder as, although the living wood is a pale colour, it turns a deep orange when cut, making the tree look as though it is bleeding.