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Alder is the common name of a of ( Alnus) belonging to the birch . The genus comprises about 30 of and , a few reaching a large size, distributed throughout the .


Etymology
The common name "alder" evolved from Old English "alor", which in turn is derived from root [1] aliso. The generic name Alnus is the equivalent name. Both the Latin and the Germanic words derive from the root el-, meaning "red" or "brown", which is also a root for the English words "" and another tree: "", a tree distantly related to the alders.[2].


Description
With a few exceptions, alders are , and the leaves are alternate, simple, and . The are with elongate male catkins on the same plant as shorter female catkins, often before leaves appear; they are mainly wind-pollinated, but also visited by bees to a small extent. These trees differ from the ( Betula, the other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are woody and do not disintegrate at maturity, opening to release the seeds in a similar manner to many .

The largest species are ( A. rubra) on the west coast of North America, and ( A. glutinosa), to most of Europe and widely introduced elsewhere, both reaching over 30 m. By contrast, the widespread (green alder) is rarely more than a 5-m-tall shrub.


Ecology
Alder leaves and sometimes catkins are used as food by numerous .

A. glutinosa and A. viridis are classed as environmental weeds in New Zealand. ξ1


Nitrogen fixation
Alder is particularly noted for its important relationship with , an , , nitrogen-fixing . This bacterium is found in , which may be as large as a human fist, with many small lobes, and light brown in colour. The bacterium absorbs from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with , which it produces through . As a result of this mutually beneficial relationship, alder improves the of the where it grows, and as a , it helps provide additional nitrogen for the species which follow.


Parasites
Alder roots are parasitized by .


Uses

The of some alder species have a degree of edibility, Plants For A Future (Database) and may be rich in protein. Reported to have a bitter and unpleasant taste, they are more useful for survival purposes. The wood of certain alder species is often used to smoke various food items, especially salmon and other seafood.

Most of the pilings that form the foundation of Venice were made from alder trees.

Alder bark contains the anti-inflammatory , which is metabolized into in the body.Ewing, Susan. The Great Alaska Nature Factbook. Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 1996. Native Americans used red alder bark () to treat poison oak, insect bites, and skin irritations. Blackfeet Indians used an infusion made from the bark of red alder to treat lymphatic disorders and tuberculosis. Recent clinical studies have verified that red alder contains and , compounds shown to be effective against a variety of tumors.Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, ISBN 0-87842-359-1

The inner bark of the alder, as well as red osier dogwood, or chokecherry, was also used by in their smoking mixtures, known as kinnikinnick, to improve the taste of the leaf.Staff (2009) "Bearberry" Discovering Lewis and Clark The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation

Alder is illustrated in the coat of arms for the Austrian town of .

Electric guitars, most notably the , , and , have been built with alder bodies since the 1950s. Alder is appreciated for its claimed tight and even balanced tone, especially when compared to mahogany, and has been adopted by many electric guitar manufacturers.

As a hardwood, alder is used in making furniture, cabinets, and other woodworking products. For example, in the television series 1992 season 3 episode "Things Become Extinct", Native American Ira Wingfeather makes duck out of Alder tree branches while films.


Classification
The genus is divided into three subgenera:

Subgenus Alnus: Trees with stalked shoot buds, male and female catkins produced in autumn (fall) but stay closed over winter, pollinating in late winter or early spring, about 15–25 species, including:

  • —grey alder, Eurasia
    • Alnus hirsuta ( A. incana subsp. hirsuta)—Manchurian alder, northeastern , and central Asia in mountains
    • Alnus oblongifolia ( A. incana subsp. oblongifolia)—Arizona alder, southwestern North America
    • Alnus rugosa ( A. incana subsp. rugosa)—speckled alder, northeastern North America
    • Alnus tenuifolia ( A. incana subsp. tenuifolia)—thinleaf or mountain alder, northwestern North America
  • —Japanese alder, Japan
  • —Mexican alder, Mexico, Guatemala (one of the few evergreen species)
  • , ,
  • (Japan)
  • —Nepalese alder, eastern Himalaya, southwest China
  • —Oriental alder, southern Turkey, northwest Syria, Cyprus
  • —Japan, Korea
  • —white alder, interior western North America
  • —red alder, west coastal North America

Subgenus Clethropsis. Trees or shrubs with stalked shoot buds, male and female catkins produced in autumn (fall) and expanding and pollinating then, three species:

Subgenus Alnobetula. Shrubs with shoot buds not stalked, male and female catkins produced in late spring (after leaves appear) and expanding and pollinating then, one to four species:

  • —green alder, widespread:
    • Alnus viridis subsp. viridis - Eurasia
    • Alnus viridis subsp. maximowiczii ( A. maximowiczii) - Japan
    • Alnus viridis subsp. crispa ( A. crispa) - northern North America
    • Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata ( A. sinuata, Sitka alder or slide alder - western North America, far northeastern Siberia


Further reading
  • Chen, Zhiduan and Li, Jianhua (2004). Phylogenetics and Biogeography of Alnus (Betulaceae) Inferred from Sequences of Nuclear Ribosomal DNA ITS Region. International Journal of Plant Sciences 165: 325–335.


External links


References
    ^ (2008). 9780478144123, Department of Conservation.

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