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NAME: Alder



LATIN NAME: Alnus Glutinosa


FAMILY:  Betulacae

COMMON / FOLK NAMES: Alder Common Alder Black Alder


RELATED SPECIES: Grey Alder (A. incana) and Italian Alder (A. cordata).

MEDICINAL PART:  Bark and leaves - contains tannin, bark-tea was used to cure chills.

PLACE OF ORIGIN:   Ireland, Britain and Temperate Zones in Europe and elsewhere.

HABITAT: Very tolerant of water logged conditions whilst
dormant. Likes to grow beside streams and running water.  Can tolerate all soil types except poor acid peats. Fixes nitrogen via root nodules and will grow on relatively infertile soils and hence used for site reclamation.  Could be planted with pine trees to counteract excessive nitrogen leaching into soil from these trees.

DESCRIPTION:  The wood is light reddish brown and has a coarse texture. Rapidly growing tree (0.5m per annum for first 30 - 40 years) mature at about 60 years with long trunk and narrow crown. Distinctive outline in winter. Requires plenty of light and can be used as pioneer species. Height 20m or more. Age up to 150 years.  The leaves have a distinctive serrated shape and are broad.

FLOWERING PERIOD:  Flowers appear from February to March, leaves from April, Catkins from October to December, Leaves start to fall in November.


PROPAGATION: Grown from seed, they are carried down streams and germinate naturally when embedded in wet soil.  Can be used for reclamation and drainage of wetlands, grow quickly in the first few years.


PROPERTIES: Astringent Diuretic


USES: Wood - Used to make charcoal for artists, used in gunpowder mixes in charcoal form, Good for wood-turning crafts, hardwood and pulp can be used.  Burns quickly.  Is stronger in water, used for piles and stakes in water-logged areas. Also produces a red dye, leaves produce a green dye, and bark produces a black dye.


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GENDER: Masculine 

PLANET: Neptune
POWERS: Anti-Drowning, Death, Water Spells.


DEITIES: Nechtan Cailleach Beara Manannan Mac Lír

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Unless you know exactly what you are doing it may not be wise to use the Alder, however if you are going on a long sea voyage call on Manannan Mac Lír while holding a small alder twig and ask protection during your journey.  Nechtan will protect you in fresh-water areas, the Cailleach will help you face the physical effects of old age/debility bravely.


Traditionally in Ireland the Alder wand  was used to measure the dead and was marked with protective oghams for this purpose only a druid could handle it without penalty.  This survived into folkloric belief and it was considered unlucky to handle alder wood up to the early twentieth century in parts of Ireland. The Alder measuring wand was called a Fe. (The Aspen wand was also used for funereal measuring and has similar superstitions surrounding it).

It was used for cursing one's enemies and it was believed that it could bring death upon them.


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