A difficult shot when the March winds do blow. But I was determined to capture the alder in all its parts.
Despite the wind-blur, I think we can see last year’s ‘fruit’, looking remarkably like pine cones, hiding behind this season’s flowering catkins—the showy gold-through-red-purple catkins are male, the female are the less conspicuous clusters of green. The tree has yet to open its leaves.
The alder, a native of Britain and Europe, was an important tree in the days before chemical dyes. From the flowers come ‘fairy’ green (for Robin Hood’s garb); from its bark, ‘alder red’; from its twigs, brown; and from its early spring shoots, golden cinnamon. So it’s not surprising that the alder features often in the Asaric Tales, posted here over the past few years.
But the alder has many more uses than the yield of dye. Its wood being proof against its natural wet environments, it makes excellent timber for building in damp places. Early bridges would have used alder. And alder was used for many of the pilings in Venice. Historically it was the wood of choice for boats, and more recently, for lock-gates.
It’s also a healer. A decoction of its bark soothes burns and inflammation, while a bed of alder leaves will bring relief from rheumatism. Plus those leaves are a pest deterrent, ridding a house of fleas. All round, a useful tree.
The alder colonised Europe from its Ice Age retreat along the south shores of the Caspian Sea (today’s Northern Iran; also the original home of our much loved apple).